Chronology

The chronology by Joan Young with Susan Davidson in Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective (New York: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1997), updated by Davidson and Kara Vander Weg for Robert Rauschenberg (New York: Gagosian Gallery, 2010), has been further revised for the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation website by foundation staff with Amanda Sroka.
 
When an event cannot be dated precisely within a given year, it appears at the beginning of that year. When a date or span of dates is speculative, it appears in brackets.
 

1925–42

Born Milton Ernest Rauschenberg on October 22, 1925, in Port Arthur, Texas, an oil refinery town on the Gulf of Mexico, near the Louisiana border. The only son of Dora Carolina Matson and Ernest Rauschenberg, an employee of Gulf State Utilities, a local light and power company, he is of Cherokee, Dutch, German, and Swedish descent. As a child, creates an elaborately decorated environment in his room, drawing images on the walls, painting red fleurs-de-lis all over the woodwork and furniture, and building a structure of crates filled with jars and boxes of found objects to divide the room that he shares with his only sibling, Janet, born in 1936. Learns to fish at an early age. Develops a love for animals and has many pets, including ducks, rabbits, frogs, and a goat. Raised by a deeply religious mother, Rauschenberg aspires to become a preacher at age thirteen but decides against it when he realizes the fundamentalist Church of Christ to which his family belongs forbids dancing, one of his passions. Attends public schools in Port Arthur and graduates from Thomas Jefferson High School, where he is active in the school theater as a costume and set designer.

Rauschenberg Portrait American Flag
Rauschenberg, Thomas Jefferson High School graduation, Port Arthur, Texas, spring 1943