Rauschenberg, Robert

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Rauschenberg, Robert

Robert Rauschenberg (rou´shənbûrg´), 1925–2008, American painter, b. Port Arthur, Tex., as Milton Ernest Rauschenberg. He studied at the Kansas City Art Institute, with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College, and at New York's Art Students League. In the late 1950s he came under the influence of Marcel Duchamp. With his friend Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg became a pivotal figure in the emerging pop art movement, and together they were vital to initiating a new era of experimentation in American art. A constant innovator and improviser, Rauschenberg moved from style to style and medium to medium, blurring the lines between painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, and even performance and dance.

Rauschenberg's enormously inventive paintings, some of which incorporate silkscreen, include everyday images and objects and are executed in a loose, spontaneous style. He also experimented extensively with assemblage. Gloria (1956; Cleveland Mus. of Art), Canyon (1959), Summer Rental III (1960; Whitney Mus., New York City), and the famous Monogram (1959; Moderna Museet, Stockholm), which incorporates a whole stuffed Angora goat encircled by an automobile tire, are characteristic of the three-dimensional collages, known as "combines," which he created from 1954 to 1964. Major works of the 1980s and 90s are mainly large constructions. Rauschenberg began using photographs in the 1950s, but photographic images are particularly prevalent in his later works, as in the massive "Scenarios" paintings of the early 2000s, which also make use of computers and digital printers. One of contemporary American art's most prolific and influential figures, he also collaborated with artists in other fields, such as composer John Cage and choreographers Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, and Trisha Brown.

See catalogs of his work ed. by L. Alloway (1976), W. Hopps et al. (1997), and P. Schimmel (2005); S. Hunter, ed., Robert Rauschenberg: Works, Writing, Interviews (2007); biography by M. L. Kotz (1994, rev. ed. 2004); studies by C. Tomkins (1980, repr. 2005), M. Ormond (1985), B. Rose (1987), L. Steinberg (2000), B. W. Joseph (2002 as ed., 2003), R. S. Mattison (2004), and B. W. Joseph (2007).

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