Rauschenberg was born in Port Arthur, Texas as Milton Ernest Rauschenberg. At
the age of 16, he began pharmaceutical studies at the University of Texas. In
1943, he was drafted into the United States Navy where he served as a
technician in a mental hospital until 1945.
the Académie Julian in Paris where he met fellow student Susan Weil, who he
married in 1950. With Weil, later that year enrolled in Black Mountain College
in North Carolina. While there, Rauschenberg studied under painter Josef
Albers, a founder of the Bauhaus, and collaborated with composer John Cage and
choreographer Merce Cunningham. In these formative years, he began to develop
many of the themes that would be present in his oeuvre, while also
experimenting with a range of mediums including painting, photography, and
Rauschenberg studied at the Art Students League of New York where he also met Knox
Martin and Cy Twombly. While in New York, he was introduced to the work of
Abstract Expressionists and begins to adapt their loose brushstrokes in his
paintings. During this time he developed several series that incorporate
abstraction and unconventional materials. For example, in 1951, for his Night Blooming (1951) paintings he pressed gravel or dirt in
the pigment, and his White Paintings
(1951) reflect light and shadow.
1952–1953: Rauschenberg traveled through Europe and
North Africa with Twombly. During this time his work shifted to focus on
collage and sculpture, often employing recurring motifs including
transportation, the human form, lettering, and graphics.