Robert Rauschenberg - 20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session New York Tuesday, December 8, 2020 | Phillips
  • Robert Rauschenberg’s Untitled (de Gaulle), 1961, captures the cultural cacophony of the image-obsessed mid-20th century in the dissociative haze of the artist’s lauded transfer drawing technique. Within Rauschenberg’s corpus of transfer drawings, which typically deal with many distinct and disparate topics in a single work, Untitled (de Gaulle) is rare among them for its distilled focus on a single theme. Completed in the spring of 1961 during a trip to France, this work uniquely thematizes the failed 1961 coup d’etat in Algiers that brought tensions between France and its onetime colony to a fever pitch – offering the viewer a fascinating time capsule. Housed in collection of noted art dealer and collector Ruth O’Hara, Untitled (de Gaulle) as such takes a primes position in Rauschenberg’s pantheon of transfer drawings, of which other examples reside in the collections such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Menil Collection, Houston. 
    "I felt I had to find a way to use collage in drawing." —Robert Rauschenberg 

    Rauschenberg created Untitled (de Gaulle) in 1961, just three years after having fully developed his transfer drawing technique. Seeking a way to translate the strategies of appropriation and collage underlying his collages to  the more intimate medium of drawing, Rauschenberg first experimented with manipulating imagery using a solvent-based transfer process in 1952 and fully developed the technique by the end of the decade, soon becoming the artist’s preferred process for the duration of the 1960s. 


    Robert Rauschenberg photographed at his Lafayette Street studio in New York, 1968. Photograph by Harry Shunk, Artwork © 2020 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation

    By soaking found media in a solvent, laying the original image onto the drawing, and etching across the surface of the work with a dry pen nib, Rauschenberg could directly transfer found media onto the drawing and at the same time obfuscate the replicated images. These works – truly a product of the television age and which Rauschenberg’s friend and mentor John Cage likened to “many television sets working simultaneously all tuned differently” – mimic the ethereal black and white haze of the small screen and allowed the artist to play on the oversaturation of images of the early days of television.


    The Summer of 1961: Rauschenberg in France


    Executed at the height of tensions between France and its colonial territory in Algeria, Untitled (de Gaulle) juxtaposes imagery Rauschenberg took from local news sources. Rauschenberg distills the sociocultural essence of his French setting into a single expression of time and place in his explosive combination of media clippings of President Charles de Gaulle – who was elevated to the French presidency as a direct condition of previous military junta in Algiers – the Palais Bourbon, home of the French National Assembly, and text taken from newspaper headlines detailing violence between Algerian Muslims and the police in the French capital. 

    Rauschenberg considered his role as an artist to be to translate the sundry experiences of life, small and large, into discrete aesthetic experiences. Always keeping his studio window open and the television on to flood his workspace with sound and color, Rauschenberg strove to compile and combine the stimuli of the world around him. 

    Untitled (de Gaulle) is unique not only for its handling of a single, discrete theme, but also for its linguistic focus – Rauschenberg incorporated many elements written in French – a language he did not speak – into this work, bringing his transfer technique across the Atlantic and into a new cultural setting. Acting as an important conduit between Rauschenberg’s early Combines and his later collage paintings, these works enabled the artist to engage with his own role as an image creator – and manipulator. Untitled (de Gaulle) appropriates mass media imagery and boasts the artist’s involvement in the creation of the artwork by veiling the ubiquitous visual traces of a major world event beneath the steely fog of the artist’s hand, evoking the chaotic events of a changing world and underscoring the artist’s role within it.

    • Provenance

      Robert Fraser Gallery, London
      Galerie Daniel Cordier, Paris (acquired from the above in 1965)
      Sotheby’s, London, February 15, 2011, lot 48
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Offer Waterman, Robert Rauschenberg: Transfer Drawings from the 1950s and 1960s, December 2, 2016 - January 13, 2017, no. 4, pp. 11, 26, 78 (detail illustrated, p. 11; illustrated, p. 27)

    • Literature

      Bernd Carow, ed., Robert Rauschenberg, exh. cat., Kunstverein Hannover, Hannover, 1970, p. 13 (illustrated)

Property from the Estate of Ruth O’Hara


Untitled (de Gaulle)

signed, inscribed, and dated “Rauschenberg Paris 1961” on the reverse
solvent transfer, graphite and watercolor on paper
22 1/4 x 30 in. (56.5 x 76.2 cm)
Executed in 1961.

Full Cataloguing

$250,000 - 350,000 

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session

New York 8 December 2020