Robert Rauschenberg. Bed. 1955
On view
Medium
Oil and pencil on pillow, quilt, and sheet on wood supports
Dimensions
6' 3 1/4" x 31 1/2" x 8" (191.1 x 80 x 20.3 cm)
Credit
Gift of Leo Castelli in honor of Alfred H. Barr, Jr.
Object number
79.1989
Copyright
© 2015 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Department
Painting and Sculpture

Bed is one of Robert Rauschenberg's first Combines, works in which he affixed cast-off items, such as tires or old furniture, to a traditional support. Here he framed a well-worn pillow, sheet, and quilt, scribbled on them with pencil, and splashed them with paint in a style reminiscent of Abstract Expressionism. These bedclothes, legend has it, were Rauschenberg’s own, and the work is thus as personal as a self-portrait, or more so. "Painting relates to both art and life," Rauschenberg said. "(I try to act in that gap between the two.)"

Gallery label from 2011

Additional text

Bed is one of Rauschenberg's first Combines, his own term for his technique of attaching cast–off items, such as rubber tires or old furniture, to a traditional support. In this case he framed a well–worn pillow, sheet, and quilt, scribbled them with pencil, and splashed them with paint, in a style derived from Abstract Expressionism. In mocking the seriousness of that ambitious art, Rauschenberg predicted an attitude more widespread among later generations of artists—the Pop artists, for example, who also appreciated Rauschenberg's relish for everyday objects.

Legend has it that the bedclothes in Bed are Rauschenberg's own, pressed into use when he lacked the money to buy a canvas. Since the artist himself probably slept under this very sheet and quilt, Bed is as personal as a self-portrait, or more so—a quality consistent with Rauschenberg's statement, "Painting relates to both art and life. . . . (I try to act in that gap between the two)." Although the materials here come from a bed, and are arranged like one, Rauschenberg has hung them on the wall, like a work of art. So the bed loses its function, but not its associations with sleep, dreams, illness, sex—the most intimate moments in life. Critics have also projected onto the fluid-drenched fabric connotations of violence and morbidity.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 207

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Image permissions

In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053; requests@artres.com; artres.com. Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124; firenze@scalarchives.com; scalarchives.com.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

Related links:
Outside North America: Scala Archives
North America: Art Resource