Robert Rauschenberg was born Milton Ernest Rauschenberg in Port Arthur, Texas on October 22, 1925. In 1943 he began to study pharmaceutics at the University of Texas in Austin, but he was soon drafted into military service. After his demobilisation in 1945 he spent a year working in a factory before resuming his studies at the Kansas City Art Institute. He altered his name from Milton to Robert or Bob.
The following year Robert Rauschenberg spent the summer at the Académie Julian in Paris, the winter at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where he would often return to. Between 1949 and 1952 he mainly studied at the Arts Students League in New York. At that time Rauschenberg married. A son was born, the artist was able to organise first exhibitions of his "white" and "black" paintings and broke up with his wife in 1952.
In 1953 he settled in New York as a freelance artist. During the 1950s and 1960s Robert Rauschenberg often worked on costumes and stage designs for Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor and developed his own works, the famous "Combine paintings" with new materials and techniques. Main idea of these works was the combination of reality and art through the use of fragments of everyday objects. These assemblages of objects of everyday life, photography and painting were followed by experiments with serigraphs, with which he integrated pictures from magazines and newspapers in his works.
In 1970 Robert Rauschenberg moved from New York to Captiva Island, Florida, where he built up the graphic workshop "Untitled Press, Inc." together with Robert Petersen. Between 1985 and 1991 he organised in co-operation with the United Nations the culture interchange program "ROCI" ("Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Exchange"), which also showed his works. In 1990 the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation was founded, with which the artist sponsored scientific and socio-political projects.
Robert Rauschenberg was honoured with numerous prizes for his art and his social commitment. Retrospective exhibitions express all over the world the appreciation of his works, but seem to be quite early in view of the artist's lasting productivity.
Robert Rauschenberg lives and works alternately in New York and on Captiva Island, Florida. There he died on May 12, 2008.
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