SERIOUS WINDOW DRESSING: Four panels made by Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns that once hung in the windows of Bergdorf Goodman will be auctioned Wednesday as part of “Christie’s 20th Century: Hong Kong to New York” sale.
The work was created under the pseudonym Matson Jones. It is expected to fetch between $600,000 and $800,000 at the livestreamed event, according to a Christie’s spokeswoman.
Rauschenberg and Johns teamed up using the pseudonym for various projects. Matson was the maiden name of Rauschenberg’s paternal grandmother and Jones was shorthand for Johns. Dating from 1955, the panels were for Bergdorf Goodman’s Fifth Avenue store. Rauschenberg and Johns also did some freelance window dressing for another New York shopping destination, Bonwit Teller. Rauschenberg died in 2008.
Their four blue panels depict an underwater scene with ancient gods of the sea and sea creatures. Each panel stands four feet tall. Due to the crispness of the human silhouettes and some of the crustaceans, the piece is believed to have probably been created using cutouts as opposed to having real people lying on the light-sensitive sheet, according to Christie’s.
Based on the shadowy, ethereal larger fish, those forms may have been made by using real fish obtained at a local market. The areas with a prismatic light effect were likely to have been done by crumpling the paper during the process. This technique for making cyanotopes was introduced to Rauschenberg in 1949 by fellow Black Mountain College student Susan Weil, according to Christie’s.
The way they made blueprints was documented in a 1951 issue of Life magazine titled “Speaking of Pictures.” And shortly thereafter, their “Blueprint: Photogram for Mural Decoration,” which is now known as “Female Figure,” was shown in an Edward Steichen-organized show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Like Bergdorf Goodman’s, Bonwit Teller’s supported on-the-rise artists, thanks chiefly to designer Gene Moore. The work of Salvador Dalí was displayed there dating back to 1929, as were the paintings of James Rosenquist in 1959, and the Pop art of Andy Warhol in 1961.