The artist Robert Rauschenberg died last night of heart failure in Florida. He was 82. A monumental figure whose formal experimentations defined American contemporary art for decades, and whose generosity greatly influenced the New York cultural and social scene, Rauschenberg was one of the last of his generation of artists to survive.
In Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan's Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Willem de Kooning, they tell the story of de Kooning's 1953 visit from Rauschenberg, a kindred spirit in loving "the rude parodic squawk in the temple of art." But Rauschenberg wasn't stopping by de Kooning's studio to pay homage; he was there to ask for a de Kooning drawing — to erase. In honor of the late Robert Rauschenberg, we're pleased to present the scene in its entirety.
From de Kooning: An American Master, ©2004 by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. With many thanks to the authors.