Born in Stockholm, Claes Oldenburg moved to Chicago with his family in 1936, where he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1950 to 1954. He relocated to New York in 1956, where he became a key figure in performance art and Happenings. Between 1960 and 1962, Green Gallery, New York, hosted numerous shows of Oldenburg’s work, including two solo exhibitions, four group exhibitions, and multiple Happenings/performances.
In a September 1962 review of a Wayne Thiebaud show, Donald Judd wrote that Oldenburg: “has done something artistically new, as Max Kozloff in Art International says he and the others have not, makes his cakes and pies and other foods and articles actual objects, which is different epistemologically from illustration.”1 Oldenburg and Judd met around 1965, when Oldenburg was living in the same apartment building as their mutual friend the artist Yayoi Kusama.
Oldenburg made this drawing, his first known use of the mouse as a motif, as a study for a poster for his solo exhibition at the Dwan Gallery in October 1963.2 Through the 1960s and beyond, the mouse would become a significant figure for Oldenburg, who claimed at one point, “The Mouse, that’s me!”3 In 1969, Oldenburg contributed a drawing of a mouse to be etched on a tiny ceramic wafer and deposited on the moon; The Moon Museum, measuring half an inch by three-quarters of an inch, also includes drawings by Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, John Chamberlain, Forrest Myers, and Andy Warhol.4 For Documenta V in 1977, Oldenburg built a miniature mouse-shaped museum of objects he had collected over many years.