Robert Rauschenberg Biography

Robert Rauschenberg




Milton Ernest Robert Rauschenberg, painter, printmaker, sculptor, photographer, designer, and performance artist, was born in Port Arthur, Texas on 22 October 1925. During the years 1944-1945, Rauschenberg was stationed in California at Camp Pendleton which is about eighty miles south of Los Angeles. While on leave, he visited the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino. Rauschenberg’s visit was transformative as he decided to become an artist. In 1947, he studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and the following year he studied in Paris at Académie Julian. Rauschenberg returned to the United States in time to register for the fall 1948 semester at Black Mountain College in North Carolina so that he could study with Josef Albers. He studied there intermittently until 1952. While at Black Mountain College, he met John Cage and Merce Cunningham, with whom he would collaborate from 1954 to 1964, and again in 1977, creating scenic, costume, and lighting designs for their dance company.

Rauschenberg moved to New York City in 1949 and enrolled at the Art Students League (ASL) where he studied with Morris Kantor and Vaclav Vytacil. While still taking classes at the ASL, Betty Parsons offered him his first solo exhibition in 1951.

In 1962, Rauschenberg made his first lithographs and silkscreens and, the same year, the Jewish Museum in New York mounted his first retrospective exhibition. His 1963 lithograph Accident was awarded the grand prize at the Fifth Exposition Internationale de Gravure in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia and he was awarded the Grand Prize for painting at the 1964 Venice Biennale. In 1966, Rauschenberg and electronic engineer Billy Kluver cofounded Experiments in Art and Technology, an organization that sought to promoted collaborations between artists and engineers. Rauschenberg began his long relationship with Gemini G.E.L. based in Los Angeles in 1967. Besides Gemini, he also worked with Los Angeles based print workshop Syria Studio and he participated in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Art & Technology program. In 1981, he shot a series of photographs of Los Angeles for the In + Out City Limits project.  

Elena Martinique wrote about the artist: “Radically blending materials and methods, Robert Rauschenberg is considered one of the most influential American artists whose role was crucial in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to later modern movements. Prone to experimentation and cross-cultural exchange, he continuously expanded the boundaries of art, inspiring generations of future art-makers.”

In 1976, the National Collection of Fine Arts (now the SAAM) organized a major, multi-city retrospective of Rauschenberg’s work which was hosted by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Robert Rauschenberg’s work is represented in museums worldwide, including the Kemper Art Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign; the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; the Tate Modern, London; the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; the Jewish Museum, San Francisco and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Massachusetts

Robert Rauschenberg died in Captiva, Florida on 12 May 2008.