Beginning in 1958, Rauschenberg embarked on a series of illustrations representing each canto of Dante’s Inferno. He invented a way of making transfers of magazine images using lighter fluid, which he then drew over with pencil and watercolour. This work depicts the very centre of hell, where Satan himself punishes those guilty of the worse sin of all: betraying a benefactor.
Canto XXXIV: Circle Nine, Cocytus, Compound Fraud: Round 4, Judecca, Treacherous to their Masters, from the series Thirty-Four Illustrations for Dante's Inferno
36.8 x 28.9 cm
Date of work
Original: Solvent transfer with gouache, watercolor, and pencil on paper 36.8 x 28.9 cm The Museum of Modern Art, Given anonymously © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/DACS
One of the most influential figures of twentieth-century art, Robert Rauschenberg was a pioneering artist who ultimately challenged perceptions of what art could be. Born in Texas in 1925 he later moved to New York, where he created many of his best-known works. Endlessly curious and inventive, his work ranged from painting and sculpture to performance and dance. His refusal to accept existing boundaries of what was considered art led him to continually experiment with new techniques, from innovative printing methods to incorporating found objects and detritus in his works. This radical approach prefigured pop art and inspired generations of conceptual artists in the decades that followed.