Robert Rauschenburg

Robert Rauschenberg was a leading member of the postwar American avant-garde. The artist’s hybrids of sculpture and painting, known as Combines, broke the two-dimensionality of the canvas at a time when abstract expressionism dominated the scene. His seminal Neo-Dada work, Erased de Kooning (1953), consisted of ritually erasing an original drawing he bought from the famous painter. “I don’t really trust ideas, especially good ones,” he once said. “I rather put my trust in materials that confront me, because they put me in touch with the unknown.” Born Milton Ernest Rauschenberg on October 22, 1925 in Port Arthur, TX, he was drafted into the Navy during World War II, where he served as a medical technician in San Diego. After the war, he traveled to Paris to study at the Académie Julian with the GI Bill, where he met his future wife, Susan Weil. The couple attended Black Mountain College in North Carolina alongside John Cage and Merce Cunningham. After settling in New York in 1949, Rauschenberg began to question the nature of painting through works such as Bed (1955) and Monogram (1955-1959), which used commercial images and mass-produced objects. Many of the artist’s ideas foreshadowed the rise of Andy Warhol and Pop Art in the 1960s. The artist died on May 12, 2008 in Captiva, FL. Rauschenberg’s works are in the collections of the Tate Gallery in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Kunstmuseum Basel, among others.