Winter Pool

Robert Rauschenberg (American, Port Arthur, Texas 1925–2008 Captiva Island, Florida)

Combine painting: oil, paper, fabric, wood, metal, sandpaper, tape, printed paper, printed reproductions, handheld bellows, and found painting, on two canvases, with ladder
89 1/2 x 58 1/2 x 4 in. (227.3 x 148.6 x 10.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Steven and Alexandra Cohen, and Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, Bequest of Gioconda King, by exchange, Anonymous Gift and Gift of Sylvia de Cuevas, by exchange, Janet Lee Kadesky Ruttenberg Fund, in memory of William S. Lieberman, Mayer Fund, Norman M. Leff Bequest, and George A. Hearn and Kathryn E. Hurd Funds, 2005
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Winter Pool, the first painting by Rauschenberg to enter the Museum's collection, is a prime example of a very important period in this highly inventive and influential artist's work—the mid-1950s to the early 1960s—when he created bold objects that were a hybrid of painting and sculpture and a reinvention of collage. He called them Combines. In Cubist collage, pasted papers add up to a readable image, such as a still life. With Combines, there is no narrative and the interpretation is left to the viewer.

    The work, in exceptionally fresh condition, consists of two separate canvases, each about the height of a man. A wooden ladder bridges the gap between them, and its legs extend to the floor, inviting the viewer to climb into the picture. The compositions of both canvases consist of syncopated grids formed by rectangles of paint and found objects: shirt cuffs, a handkerchief, poster letters, and photographic reproductions. Rauschenberg's virtuoso handling of paint both exploits and confronts the dominant painterly style of the early 1950s—Abstract Expressionism—and undermines the Renaissance notion that a painting shows an ideal world behind the canvas surface.

  • Provenance

    The artist; [Leo Castelli Gallery]; Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo (until 1963; sold on May 22 through Castelli to Ganz); Victor and Sally Ganz (1963–88; their sale, Sotheby's, New York, November 10, 1988, to Brant); Mr. and Mrs. Peter M. Brant (from 1988); David Geffen; [Gagosian Gallery, New York]

  • Exhibition History

    New York. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. "Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective," September 19, 1997–January 7, 1998, no. 113.

    Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective," February 13–May 17, 1998, no. 113.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Robert Rauschenberg: Combines," December 20, 2005–April 2, 2006.

    Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. "Robert Rauschenberg: Combines," May 21–September 11, 2006.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009, online catalogue.

  • References

    Alan R. Solomon. Robert Rauschenberg. New York, 1963, p. 6ff, fig. 28.

    Andrew Forge. Rauschenberg 1969. New York, 1969, pp. 90, 131, 208 (color).

    Leo Steinberg. Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth Century Art. New York, 1972.

    Walter Hopps. National Collection of Fine Arts Smithsonian. Robert Rauschenberg. Washington DC, 1976, p. 106, fig. 75.

    Calvin Tomkins. Off the Wall: Robert Rauschenberg and the Art of Our Time. Garden City, NY, 1980, pp. 108, 209.

    Roni Feinstein. New York University. Random Order: The First Fifteen Years of Robert Rauschenberg's Art, 1949 1964. New York,, 1990, p. 301, fig. 127.

    A Life of Collecting: Victor and Sally Ganz. Ed. Michael Fitzgerald. New York, 1997, pp. 148–9 (color).

    Mary Lynn Kotz. Rauschenberg: Art and Life. New York, 2004, pp. 25, 33, 91, 211, 214, ill. p. 53.

    Carol Vogel. "Inside Art." The New York Times (November 18, 2005).

  • See also