Compare and Contrast Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns

I.         Introduction

            The names Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns are among the biggest names in the modern and/or American contemporary art scene where their presence have been sensational and felt in such a way that their masterpieces have influenced the foremost art scene in the entire United States of America. In a sense, these artists are regarded to be among the most influential American contemporary artists who have been very prolific in their arts and have been relatively significant in reshaping and influencing the American contemporary art scene. Both Rauschenberg and Johns are regarded and widely celebrated with their arts and masterpieces which are often cited as the superb products of modern art. In a sense, these artists are among those who have been an instrument and have been very well significant during the transition between the Abstract Expressionism and Pop-art. Thus this research paper will delve on the topic about the significance of Rauschenberg and Johns as modern artists and their role on the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art. This paper would also focus on the task of comparing and contrasting the two artists and their own masterpieces.

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             The Abstract Expressionism is a painting style which uses the both the form of abstract and expressionist emotions. It is believed that the said art movement has started in the mid of 1940’s in New York City.[1] However, it is seen that its influences comes as early as the era of Surrealism and Cubism. In a sense, such movement of art is often characterized as the most significant contribution of the United States to Modernism. Moreover, Abstract Expressionism is also seen to be of the most prominent reasons that have placed America in the map of global art scene, more specifically the New York City, which for the longest time has been solely dominated by European countries focusing specifically in Paris.[2] The movement is said to have been widely known after the Second World War. Apart from being associated with utilizing abstract and expression, the said art movement is not solely limited among these ideas but rather it is also regarded to be a complete freedom from the entire traditional method of creative thinking and use of social values. Thus, the Abstract Expressionism is a discipline of art which favors a free flow of spontaneous personal expression.

Aside from the artistic movement of Abstract Expressionism, there are three other art movements which have also gained prominence during the early years. These are called Surrealism and Cubism. As normally regarded to be one of the great influences of Abstract Expressionism, the art movement of Surrealism is believed to have been started during the early 1920’s that is best known for the visual artworks and artistic writings. Surrealism is believed to be the reaction to philosophy of rationalism[3]. However, for most of the surrealist artists and writers, they often characterize their masterpieces and/or work of art as an expression of the philosophical movement. According to the leader of this movement, André Breton, his thoughts are clear that Surrealism is a superb revolutionary movement that have greatly influenced in the development of art.[4]

            Moreover, the Cubism is also another art movement which has gained popularity during the early years in art history, which shares the same credit as the biggest contributors in the formation of modern art. In fact, the movement of Cubism is considered as a significant 20th century art movement that has inspired the development of the global art scene, which have been pioneered by two of the greatest artists namely Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Through these artists and their masterpieces, the European painting and sculpture have been modified, which have also stimulated related movements in music and literature.[5] There are two types of this movement, first is known to be the “Analytic Cubism,” which is seen to have started in the year 1907 that is considered as the beginning of Cubism and second is the “Synthetic Cubism,” which utilizes synthetic materials in art that is believed to have lasted until the 1919, prior to the era where the Surrealist movement has gained popularity in the early 1920’s.[6]

In a sense, during these early years in the entire history of global art scene, majority of the artists worldwide are in the stage and are in goal of influencing and inspiring the future of art movements wherein through their own masterpieces, their ideas and disciplines are distinctively depicted with the aim of leaving an influential and significant movement which they can call their own. Prior to the time of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, and their modern pop-art, the great artists like André Breton of Surrealist movement, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque for the movement of Cubism are also in goal of revolutionizing the global art scene by means of representing their own creative thinking with their movement and ideas. Thus, during the early years of global art scene, most of the artists also utilize the art and their movement in criticizing and depicting their own thoughts with different social events at that time, more especially with the atrocities that the World War I and II have created in the society and in the lives of the people.

II.        Jasper John

            Jasper Johns Jr. is a contemporary American Artist who works outstandingly in painting. Born on May 15, 1930 in Augusta, Georgia, Jasper Johns is now regarded to be one of the biggest names in the global art scene, more especially within the United States, wherein his masterpieces are among the most expensive works of art to have ever been showcased in the gallery. Born and raised in Allendale, South Carolina, Jasper Johns, as a child, has grown up with the goal of becoming an artist someday.

According to him, growing in a place wherein the presence of art or the existences of artist are nowhere to be found, Japer Johns does not know anything about it and its significance in the lives of people.[7] Due to his curiosity, his innocence about art has brought him to place and situation that is totally different from the one he has been through before. As he further moves to knowing more about his curiosity of art, Jasper Johns has studied briefly at the University of South Carolina. After finishing from college, Jasper Johns has decided to move in New York City during the early 1950’s and pursue his long term love and interest for art[8].

In a sense, his settlement in New York City is seen to be the turning point in his career as a widely celebrated and multi popular American contemporary artist. In New York, Japer Johns has been given the chance of meeting and getting along with other prominent artists coming from different areas of art, which have fueled his love for it and inspired him more to come up with new masterpieces coming from his own profound non-traditional creative way of thinking. Thus, New York City is also the place where he met and worked with another prolific and influential artist in his entire career, Robert Rauschenberg. The early projects which these two artists has cooperatively worked together is when they are doing windows display for tiffany.

Working with other artists and experiencing various art works have been very well essential for Jasper Johns and his career as an artist. Through this way, Jasper Johns is able to integrate numerous ideas and influences to something new and contemporary that would pave the way towards the introduction of modern Pop Art movement, which is now considered to be a significant artistic movement in the 20th century art scene.

Come the year 1958, after the long time and effort he spent in cruising the New York art scene, the woks and masterpieces of Jasper Johns has finally penetrated the heart and cravings of art lovers wherein Leo Castelli, a gallery owner, has seen Johns’ work of art in one of his usual visits at Rauschenberg’s studio that has opened the door towards fame and recognition to Jasper Johns and his own description of art. As an artist, Jasper Johns has his styles and techniques in performing his art, which primarily renders distinction in all of his works. This style involves literal representation of imagery and objects in the most recognizable way. In other words, Jasper Johns renders more details with the way he would create his art rather than thinking of what his art and/or paintings would mean. In addition to this, Jasper Johns’ technique also renders subtle details in using color in most of his paintings which necessitate the viewers to see his art and/or paintings in a totally different manner than their normal purpose.

    Certainly, the most probable grounds that have made Jasper Johns a famous and legendary artist is his legacy of having a one-man show at the Leo Castelli’s Gallery in 1958.[9] At his first exhibition, he amazed the art fanatics and revolutionizes the global art scene. At that same night, the Museum of Modern Art has purchased three pieces of his art which renders a clear picture that an artist like Jasper Johns has the potential of becoming an important character in the global art scene. As of the present time, his paintings and arts are sold in-line with the most expensive art works in the world.

Most of the early paintings of Jasper Johns in the 1950’s are objects like flags, maps, target, letters and numbers, which are normally icons of popular culture and place. As the people during the late 1950’s faces great search for new ideas other than the emotionality of Abstract Expressionists, the art of Jasper Johns and his profound artistic notions have provided the people with the fresh ideas they wanted. Jasper Johns creates a new experience for gallery goers to look for paintings which only depicts things like flags and numbers. Back then, the people and/or the art viewer has diverse set of reactions and responses to the art of Jasper Johns, which have both generated wrath and praise from art critics across the globe.[10] Nonetheless, the acceptance of people for his art has little by little been a revelation as time goes and he started to gain recognition from different people and countries abroad.[11]

III.      Robert Rauschenberg

Just like Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg is also a prominent and legendary American artist who has gained popularity and recognition during days of transition between the outgoing art movement of Abstract Expressionism and the upcoming Pop Art movement in late 1950’s. Born October 22, 1925, Robert Rauschenberg has never thought of him becoming a legendary artist. Instead, he envisions himself of becoming a minister and later a pharmacist. Thus, it is not until the year 1947, while staying in the U.S. Marines, that he realized his skills for drawing and passion for the artistic representation of everyday objects and people. Right then and there, he decided to leave and head to Paris to pursue his recent interest and decided to learn more about the European art scene. In a short span of time, Robert decided to move to North Carolina and be with other prominent artist as he became disenchanted with the European art scene. Days he spent in North Carolina have been solely dedicated for learning and he then decided to move to New York City and search for his artistic career and met Jasper Johns.

With the kind of life and experiences he has in New York City, Robert Rauschenberg has realized his full potential and power of what he could contribute to the global art scene and painting. As such, through his deep enthusiasm for other popular culture and contemporary creative thinking, Robert Rauschenberg is able to attain a new way of painting style and techniques that have also paved the way towards the beginning of modern art. In addition to this, Robert Rauschenberg is also known for his “Combines” in 1950s wherein he discovers art in utilizing non-traditional materials and objects in producing innovative combinations.

Unlike any other artist at that time, Robert Rauschenberg utilizes materials for his art that are not normally used by a typical artist. For instance, he would usually cover a canvas with house paint and/or place ink on the wheel of a car and roll it over a plain paper to create a drawing. Robert Rauschenberg normally does this process while demonstrating the strictness and worry for formal painting. Using unlikely set of materials and artistic enthusiasm in different popular cultures have rendered Rauschenberg the needed inspiration for his art and masterpieces.[12]

IV.      Similarities of Two Artists

            Prior to their formal meeting, long before their collaborations, the works and arts of these two artists have already exhibited similarities and likeliness that are evident in their masterpieces. For instance, with their both unconventional and contemporary artistic ideas, their works are similar in such a way that their representation of art is non-traditional and opposes the present art movement of Abstract Expressionism during the early 1950’s. Thus, both of these artists adopted the tenets of contemporary movement in depicting their views and creating their art as Jasper Johns finds simplicity and familiarity with paintings, while Robert Rauschenberg utilizes unlikely set of materials for his masterpieces.

Moreover, both Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns utilize conventional symbols in most of their works in creating meaning for their art. In a sense, such artistic ideas are indeed identical for these two artists wherein this process is often regarded as a rejection of the deified individualism of the Abstract Expressionism. Thus, through their collaborations the use of these symbols has been very well evident in their works, which further strengthens their similarities as a modern American artist. In addition to this, both of these artists also employ a subtle detail of color as another way of depicting meaning and emotions in most of their masterpieces and/or paintings.

Nonetheless, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns’ personalities are similar in such a way that they are both advocates of revolutionizing the global art scene and introduces the modern Pop Art movement through their own profound creative thinking. Thus, these artists share the same notion of thinking out of the traditional way in working with their arts and creating their masterpieces. Rauschenberg and Johns complements each person’s works in a manner that they are both willing to share their thoughts and ideas to be able to further improve their works under the same interest and art movement. Hence, sharing the same discipline in the artistic movement made these two artists similar in their personalities and works. On the other hand, iconography is also one of the areas of which these artists are similar. Both Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns only utilize modern and contemporary description and interpretation of the content of imagery in their paintings.

V.        Differences of two artists

            In a sense, these two artists do not have that much of differences in terms of their art and personalities except for some specific areas such as inspirations and iconography. Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns also differ from each other in terms of inspiration. As an artist, Jasper Johns finds his inspiration more in utilizing modern iconic symbols like flags, maps, letter and numbers, while Robert Rauschenberg locates his motivation through his enthusiasm with different popular culture and his interest in utilizing unlikely set of materials for his art.

Iconography, on the other hand, is also an aspect that differentiates these two artists wherein Jasper Johns utilizes only simple recognizable imagery in his works, while Robert Rauschenberg has more complex method that includes various combinations in his masterpieces. Thus,pPublic opinions also sets the distinctions for these artists wherein Jasper Johns is recognized to be an artist who utilizes simple and familiar approach in his art, while Robert Rauschenberg is characterized to be a typical “Combines” wherein his art’s sacred meaning is difficult to interpret as he has no apparent order in the presentation of the objects.

VI.      Their influences to American Art

            Through their contemporary way of creative thinking and rendering artistic views with their masterpieces, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns has been able lead the way towards the freedom from Abstract Expressionism. Thus, through their profound presentation of the environment, man-made objects, and popular cultures, these artists have introduced the modern Pop Art movement wherein they have combined their interpretation of the beauty of nature and the subtle detail of color in their paintings.

In addition to this, with the way Jasper Johns presents his ideas in his works through the use of simple contemporary symbols such as flags, maps and letters, and the way Robert Rauschenberg gathered his materials for his masterpieces, these artists are able to pave the way for the introduction of modern Pop Art movement.

VII.     Conclusion

            In the end, it can be said that these two artists are similar in such a way that they are both contemporary and modern in depicting their artistic views and ideas in their works but differs from each other in terms of the style and techniques they are utilizing in presenting their sacred messages in their masterpieces and with the materials they are using wherein Robert Rauschenberg utilizes more of unlikely raw materials in his art. Thus, their relationship in the early years is indeed a big factor in their career and their artistic aims wherein through this strong rapport they are able to support and help each other in such a way that they have created a strong art movement that revolutionizes the global art scene and renders liberty from the movement of Abstract Expressionism. Thus, this relationship has further inspired and modifies the art of these artists which have helped them shaped the modern art movement of which they are most passionate about.

Works Cited

Amber Bush –  Jasper Johns. 17 November 2009 <>

Jasper Johns – About the Painter. Educational Broadcasting Corporation. 17 November 2009 <>

Robert Rauschenberg – About the Artist. Educational Broadcasting Corporation. 17 November 2009 <>

What is Abstract Expressionism?. 16 February 2009 <>

What is Surrealism?. 17 February 2009 <>

What is Cubism?. 17 February 2009 <>

[1] What is Abstract Expressionism
[2] What is Abstract Expressionism
[3] What is Surrealism
[4] Ibid
[5] What is Cubism
[6] Ibid
[7] Jasper Johns – About the Painter
[8] Ibid
[9] Amber Bush – Japer Johns
[10] Amber Bush – Japer Johns
[11] Ibid
[12] Robert Rauscherberg – About the artist


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