Conservation Department, Museum of Modern Art. X-ray showing paintings underneath the surface of Asheville Citizen. 2016
Ellen Davis: My name is Ellen Davis, and I'm a paintings conservation fellow at MoMA.
The painting is long and vertical, constructed of two panels. You can see lots of cracks where there's white showing through. And you can also notice an area of unusual texture at the lower center portion of the upper panel. It gave us some clues that there was something beneath the surface that we wanted to learn more about. So we decided to x-ray the painting, and we were very pleasantly surprised to find that beneath the surface on both the top and the bottom panel are figurative portraits.
The top stretcher bar is signed with the name Weil, and Susan Weil was Robert Rauschenberg's wife at the time. And the dimensions of each of the panels is very close to a French number 30 portrait size canvas, and both Robert Rauschenberg and Susan Weil studied painting together in Paris in 1948. So it's possible that these are both portraits from their time in Paris.
This is absolutely typical for Rauschenberg, to reuse materials and to repurpose used materials. This is in some ways an early example of that.