Robert Rauschenberg
Scanning, 1963


Scanning (1963) is part of an extended series of works Robert Rauschenberg produced between 1962 and 1964 that combine silkscreened photographic images with lush, gestural passages of paint. The imagery seen here—for example, animals, athletes, the urban landscape of New York, and various emblems of American culture—takes up many of the central themes that recur throughout his art. These broad references to nature and society are blended with the autobiographical: the pictured dancers are performers in the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, for which Rauschenberg designed costumes, lighting, and sets from 1954 to 1964. Through the combination of personal and universal references, Scanning encapsulates the artist’s sweeping, democratic engagement with the world around him.

Rauschenberg’s use of silkscreening in Scanning and other works from this period offered him a range of new ways of manipulating photographic imagery. Since the mid-1950s he had incorporated his own photographs and those of others in his art, either as discrete found objects—as in his Combines—or as dreamlike solvent transfer images that he integrated in drawings. Unlike earlier techniques, the silkscreen process enabled the artist to easily multiply, enlarge, and alter the same images for repeated use. In his silkscreen paintings of the early 1960s, images of mosquitos, an umbrella, and rooftop water towers recur in a variety of sizes, colors, and orientations.

Although Rauschenberg’s use of silkscreening proceeded naturally from his practice of repurposing and recontextualizing images, it was also aligned with the contemporaneous explorations of Andy Warhol (1928–1987), whose first silkscreens were produced just a few months before Rauschenberg adopted the technique. As a process that had previously been confined to the realm of commercial reproduction, silkscreening not only injected Rauschenberg’s work with new visual possibilities but also introduced the aesthetic of contemporary media that would come to define Pop art.

Ownership, Exhibition, and Publication Histories

Ownership History

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, fractional and promised gift of Helen and Charles Schwab, 1998

Exhibition History

The Obsessive Image: 1960–1968, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, April 10–May 29, 1968.

The Second Hiroshima Art Prize: Robert Rauschenberg, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, November 3, 1993–January 16, 1994.

Untitled installation, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Munich, September 10, 1994–Spring 1995.

Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, September 19, 1997–January 7, 1998. Traveled to: The Menil Collection, Houston, February 13–May 17, 1998; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany, June 27–October 11, 1998; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain, November 21, 1998–March 7, 1999.

Robert Rauschenberg, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 7–September 7, 1999.

75 Years of Looking Forward: The Anniversary Show, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, December 19, 2009–January 16, 2011.

In addition to appearing in the special exhibitions listed above, Scanning was shown in SFMOMA’s galleries in 1999 and 2000 as part of rotating presentations of the permanent collection.

This listing has been reviewed and is complete as of August 31, 2016.

Publication History

Mario Amaya,The Obsessive Image, 1960–1968 (London: Institute of Contemporary Art, 1968), 65.

Roni Feinstein, ed., Robert Rauschenberg: The Silkscreen Paintings, 1962–1964 (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1990), 141, 150 (ill.).

Seiji Oshima, Marjorie Welish, Takeshi Yoshizumi, et al., The Second Hiroshima Art Prize: Robert Rauschenberg (Hiroshima: Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, 1993), 75 (ill.), 174.

Walter Hopps and Susan Davidson, eds., Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1997), 178 (ill.).

Janet Tyson, “Robert Rauschenberg reste saisi,” Le Journal des Arts 56 (March 13, 1998).

Carol Vogel, “Left Their Art in San Francisco,” New York Times, June 5, 1998, (ill.).

Sam Hunter, Robert Rauschenberg (New York: Rizzoli, 1999), 62 (ill.), 126.

Robert Rauschenberg, video interview by David Ross, Walter Hopps, Gary Garrels, and Peter Samis, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 6, 1999. Unpublished transcript at the SFMOMA Research Library and Archives, N 6537 .R27 A35 1999a, 58–66.

Kenneth Baker, “Rauschenberg Coup at SFMOMA: ‘Port of Entry’ a Major New Work,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 8, 1999.

David Bonetti, “Rauschenberg Coup Cements SFMOMA’s Ascendance,” San Francisco Examiner, May 21, 1999, (ill.).

Branden W. Joseph, Random Order: Robert Rauschenberg and the Neo-Avant-Garde (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2003), 190 (ill.).

Rauschenberg Express (Madrid: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2006), 17n1, 18 (ill.).

Sam Hunter, Robert Rauschenberg: Works, Writings and Interviews (Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafa, 2006), 89 (ill.).

SFMOMA 75th Anniversary: David White,” interview conducted by Richard Cándida Smith, Sarah Roberts, Peter Samis, and Jill Sterrett, 2009, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2010, 44. Accessed January 3, 2013.

Janet Bishop, Corey Keller, and Sarah Roberts, eds., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: 75 Years of Looking Forward (San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2009), 149 (ill.), 150, 432.

Susan Davidson, “Robert Rauschenberg,” Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Collection (Bilbao: Guggenheim Bilbao, 2009), 97n43.

This listing has been reviewed and is complete as of August 31, 2016.

Marks and Inscriptions

Recto: None

Verso: Not available for inspection

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Artist name

Date created
oil and silkscreen ink on canvas
55 3/4 in. x 73 in. (141.61 cm x 185.42 cm)
Date Acquired
Collection SFMOMA
Fractional and promised gift of Helen and Charles Schwab
© Robert Rauschenberg Foundation
Permanent URL
Artwork Status
Not on view at this time.

Research Materials

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