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Details of Robert Rauschenberg's White Painting [three panel] (verso) showing the artist's thumbprints

Related to White Painting [three panel], 1951

Composite of three details showing Robert Rauschenberg’s thumbprints on the verso of White Painting [three panel] (1951)

Research Material
Artwork Verso Detail

The red thumbprints visible in this composite are hidden under the loose canvas on the tacking edges of the panels in White Painting [three panel]. It is not known when the thumbprints were added, but they appear on all of the White Paintings. The uniformity of their placement across all five works in the series suggests that Rauschenberg applied them at the same time, perhaps as he was preparing to show the works at Larry Gagosian Gallery, New York, in 1986, or in the traveling retrospective organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (September 19, 1997–March 7, 1999). Rauschenberg conceived of the White Paintings as pure, untouched surfaces, and he was often not directly involved in their fabrication or repainting. His decision to leave his mark on the works in the form of the thumbprints asserts his role as their conceptual author, if not always their physical maker.

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