Robert Rauschenberg, born in 1925, was raised with a strict upbringing in a small refinery town. Rauschenberg had originally set his sights on becoming a minister, but found their beliefs not to coincide with his own. By the age of sixteen, Rauschenberg was already accepted into the University of Texas in Austin to study pharmacology, but was drafted into the military in 1943.
Rauschenberg served as a medical technician in the Navy Hospital Corps and then became stationed at a hospital caring for combat survivors in San Diego. He viewed oil paintings in person for the first time at the Huntington Art Gallery in California. Following his enlistment, Rauschenberg enrolled at Kansas State University and was able to travel to Paris under the GI Bill to begin his art studies. He returned to Black Mountain College in North Carolina with Susan Weil, a close friend he made while studying in Paris. He held his first solo show at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York. During the early 1950’s he would split his time between Black Mountain College and the Art Students League.
Rauschenberg’s art was always experimental and on the cutting edge. The work he did during the 1950’s and 1960’s influenced many of the newer modern artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. He became one of the most important artists of his generation. and is credited as of the artists that helped move American art away from Abstract Expressionism towards Pop Art. Robert Rauschenberg was best known for assemblage and conceptualist images. He experimented with non-artistic materials, which was a major innovation of the time. Rauschenberg lived and worked in New York City as well as on Captiva Island, Florida.
Robert Rauschenberg was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1993 and became the recipient of Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts in 1995 in recognition of his more than 40 years of art work. He passed away from heart failure in 2008. His legacy can now be viewed at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Guggenheim Museum, Manhattan, New York; the National Gallery of Australia; and numerous others.