US painter and experimental artist, who was a pioneer of pop art.
Rauschenberg was born in Port Arthur, Texas. He studied pharmacy at Texas University and served in World War II before studying painting in Kansas City, Paris, and (1948–49) at Black Mountain College under Joseph Albers. After a further period of study at the Art Students' League in New York, in 1951 he exhibited a series of paintings depicting a few black numbers or symbols on an all-white background. These impersonal pictures represented a reaction against abstract expressionism.
During the 1950s and 1960s Rauschenberg produced the ‘combine paintings’ for which he is best known. These pictures, such as Charlene (1954), Bed (1955), and Rebus (1955), combined painting with collage and assemblage of objects, including nails, rags, bottles, etc. They displayed what Rauschenberg described as his desire to ‘act in the gap between art and life’. During the 1960s he experimented with lithographs and silk-screen printing as well as three-dimensional constructions. He won first prize at the Venice Biennale in 1964 and in 1966 founded EAT (Experiments in Art and Technology) – a collaboration of artists, scientists, and technicians to investigate the utilization of new technology in works of art. It resulted in works of art such as Soundings (1968) – an environmental piece whose workings were stimulated by the sound of spectators' voices.
In the 1970s Rauschenberg explored the use of fragile materials, such as fabric and cardboard, and continued his involvement with dance companies, which had begun in the 1950s. He subsequently worked extensively with photographic techniques.