Born in 1925 at Port Arthur, Texas. In 1942 he studied pharmacy briefly at the University of Texas, following which he served in the U.S. Marines. From 1947 to 1948 he studied various subjects at the Kansas City Art Institute, including art history, sculpture and music.
During this time he did window displays, executed film sets and designed photographic
studios. In 1948 he attended the Académie Julian, Paris, met Susan Weil, who was later to become his wife, and returned to the USA to study under Joseph Albers at the Black Mountain College, North Carolina.
There he met the choreographer Merce Cunningham and the composer John Cage in 1949 and collaborated closely with both of them.
In the same year he moved to New York and studied at the Art Students’ League until 1952. He did window displays for Bonwit Teller and Tiffany, had his first one-man exhibitions in 1951 and returned to Black Mountain College in 1952.
He traveled in Italy, France and Spain and had exhibition in 1953 at Florence and Rome.
He moved into a studio in New York in the same year and started to paint his red pictures, replacing the all-white and all-black paintings.
He erased a drawing by Willem de Kooning.
Between 1954 and 1965 he intensified his work for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. In 1955 he moved into a studio in the same neighborhood as Jasper Johns.
In 1958 he had his first exhibition at the Leo Castelli gallery and began his drawings to
illustrate Dante’s “Inferno”. In 1959 he was represented at the documenta II, Kassel, and at the Paris and Sao Paulo Biennales. In 1960 he met Marcel Duchamp.
He also did his first lithographic work, for which he was awarded the Grand Prix at Ljubljana.
In 1963 he was given his first retrospective exhibition in Europe at the Galerie Sonnabend, Paris, also shown at the Jewish Museum, New York.
He went on world tour with Cage and Cunningham’s Dance Company. In 1967 he made his Revolvers – with revolving Plexiglas discs.
That year (the same year as Martin Luther King) he was made honorary doctor of Grinnel College, Iowa. In 1968 he was invited by NASA to witness the lift-off of Apollo 11 at Kennedy Space Center and to use this theme in his work.
He set up the foundation Change Inc. For destitute artists in 1970, and a house with art studios in Florida in 1971.
In 1974 he collaborated with the writer Alain Robbe-Grillet.
He also traveled around in Israel and India. In 1975 he received the Honorary Degree of Fine Arts from the University of South Florida, Tampa, and, together with James Rosenquist, became involved in appealing for a re-examination of taxation for non-profit making art institutions.
A large retrospective of his work was shown in several American cities from 1976-78. In 1980 he had retrospectives at Berlin, Düsseldorf, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Munich and London.
In 1981 his photographs were shown at the Centre Pompidou, Paris. He lives in New York City and on Captiva Island, Florida. In 1989 his work started a world tour, including an exhibition in Moscow.
Rauschenberg died in Captiva Island, Florida, on May 12, 2008.