A matter of hours after we stood at Sotheby’s enraptured by Robert Rauschenberg‘s “Embark [Anagrams],” the extraordinary 1995 vegetable dye transfer on paper that goes on the block Thursday morning, comes news that the 82-year-old artist has died of heart failure at his Florida home. We’ll remember the puckish Rauschenberg as a sparkly-eyed master who once told an interviewer that he had long stopped offering visitors to his home and studio gifts of his work, because he found it terribly depressing when they would inevitably depart having forgotten to take the pieces with them.
As the Michael Kimmelman-penned obituary in The New York Times suggests, Rauschenberg’s predilection for pop imagery was fueled by a sentiment to which many designers can relate:
“I really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly,” he once said, “because they’re surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable.”
The remark reflected the optimism and generosity of spirit that Mr. Rauschenberg became known for. His work was likened to a St. Bernard: uninhibited and mostly good-natured. He could be the same way in person.