(b. 1925)

Rauschenberg in his Front Street Studio, 1958
Robert Rauschenberg thinks that anything—cardboard, tires, light bulbs, photographs, old clothes, even dirt—can be used to make art.

If people can paint on canvas, why can't they paint on the canvas of an old sneaker? he wondered. And do they have to use paint at all? He was curious about this, and so he began experimenting with different materials, to see how they would work.

Many people have noticed the joy and energy in Rauschenberg's artwork. He says it comes from this kind of curiosity. He is curious about everything!

He is curious about what other artists are doing. He often works with friends who are artists and writers.

He is curious about technology. Rauschenberg was especially excited about new methods of printing and photography—even X-rays. He asked master craftsmen to help him use these technologies in his artwork.

He is curious about the world. Rauschenberg likes to put things he finds—like clocks and wheels—in his paintings. "I think a painting is more like the real world if it's made out of the real world," he said.

This picture of an animal feed bag on the next page is made out of part of the "real world." It looks real, too, when you first see it.

But what has Rauschenberg added that you'd never see on any pet food shelf? How has he surprised us?


…Robert Rauschenberg's work was in the nation's bicentennial exhibition right here at the National Museum of American Art? One of the Museum's curators thought that Rauschenberg was perfect for the exhibition because he was both a great artist and a great citizen.

…he thought of himself as an artist-reporter? He said his job was to be a witness to his time in history.

…clocks were especially interesting to him? He liked thinking about all the different ways we measure time.

…Robert Rauschenberg is dyslexic? Reading was very difficult for him in school—sometimes he saw words backward, upside-down, or even double.

…he never saw a work of art until he was almost twenty years old? When he was growing up, no one in his house even talked about art.

…he grew up in Port Arthur, Texas? Some people think his artwork is a little like a Texas "tall tale."

…when people see Rauschenberg's art, they sometimes ask, "Is he making a joke?" What do you think?

Robert Rauschenberg, Reservoir