Robert Rauschenberg Biography
Robert Rauschenberg, an American born in 1925, started producing painterly prints in the early 1960s that contained pictures he cut out of magazines and newspapers. Nearly ten years prior, he had created pieces he dubbed “Combines,” which are fusions of painting and sculpture that embrace the noise of daily life and contrast the solitary canvases of abstract expressionism. The ordinary was also introduced in Rauschenberg’s prints in a variety of ways, such as the water ring left by a drinking glass, the embossment from a coin, or the traced contour of a cane. By reintroducing representation into the avant-garde, the artist revived a vibrant visual language. “What he invented above all was…a graphic surface that let the world in again,” wrote art historian Leo Steinberg.
The unrestricted attitude of Rauschenberg influenced fine art print studios to take new paths. He pushed the boundaries of techniques and materials while collaborating with skilled printers, rethinking standard procedures for lithography, screenprinting, and intaglio, using new techniques like digital imaging, and printing on unusual materials including cardboard, cloth, and plastic. Since imprinting—the very nature of printmaking—had long played a part in Rauschenberg’s work, in the form of fingerprint impressions in his paintings and magazine images transferred to drawings, his move into printmaking seemed to come naturally.
The first person to ask Rauschenberg to manufacture prints was publisher Tatyana Grosman of Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) on Long Island, New York. In 1962, he agreed to the invitation, and he has maintained a connection with that atelier ever since.
The early ULAE print Accident highlights Rauschenberg’s appreciation of the unexpected and his skill at using chance to his