Milton Ernest “Robert” Rauschenberg (October 22, 1925 – May 12, 2008) was an American painter and graphic artist whose early works anticipated the pop art movement. Rauschenberg is well known for his “Combines” of the 1950s, in which non-traditional materials and objects were employed in innovative combinations. Rauschenberg was both a painter and a sculptor and the Combines are a combination of both, but he also worked with photography, printmaking, papermaking, and performance.He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1993.He became the recipient of the Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts in 1995 in recognition of his more than 40 years of fruitful artmaking.
Rauschenberg lived and worked in New York City as well as on Captiva Island, Florida until his death from heart failure on May 12, 2008.
Already in 1984, Rauschenberg announced his Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI) at the United Nations. This would culminate in a seven-year, ten-country tour to encourage “world peace and understanding”, through Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Beijing, Lhasa (Tibet), Japan, Cuba, Soviet Union, Berlin, and Malaysia in which he left a piece of art, and was influenced by the cultures he visited. Paintings, often on reflective surfaces, as well as drawings, photographs, assemblages and other multimedia were produced, inspired by these surroundings, and these were considered some of his strongest works. The ROCI venture, supported by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., went on view in 1991.
In 1990, Rauschenberg created the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (RRF) to promote awareness of the causes he cared about, such as world peace, the environment and humanitarian issues. He also set up Change, Inc., to award one-time grants of up to $1,000 to visual artists based on financial need. Rauschenberg’s will, filed in Probate Court on October 9, 2008, named his charitable foundation as a major beneficiary, along with Darryl Pottorf, Christopher Rauschenberg, Begneaud, his nephew Byron Richard Begneaud, and Susan Weil Kirschenbaum. The amounts to be given to the beneficiaries were not named, but the estate is “worth millions”, said Pottorf, who is also executor of the estate.
Rauschenberg died on May 12, 2008, on Captiva Island, Florida.He died of heart failure after a personal decision to go off life support.Rauschenberg is survived by his partner of 25 years, artist Darryl Pottorf,his former assistant. Rauschenberg is also survived by his son, photographer Christopher Rauschenberg, and his sister, Janet Begneaud.