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Robert Carston Arneson


Sculptor, Painter

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Robert Arneson was a famous artist working in the ceramic or pottery medium in California. He was born in Benicia, CA. in 1930. Arneson studied at College of Marin in Kentfield, CA (1949-1951), California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland where he received a BA degree in 1954. At Mills College, Oakland he earned an M.F.A. degree in 1958. Following graduation he taught at Mills College (1960-1962) and then the University of CA., Davis beginning in 1962 where he was head of the ceramics department until his untimely death of cancer.

In the 1960s, Arneson became famous for his ceramic objects that with wit and irony helped develop a movement popularly called “Funk Art.” This term he did not like. But it seemed to describe the figurally slumped and sometimes disgusting subject matter of realist representation rather than the abstract/expressionist art that was current in high art circles. By the 1970’s he became famous for making oversized self-portraits in clay as well as portraits of his friends and fellow artists. He later created an impressive body of heroic-scaled pottery sculpture with politically charged images attacking the subject of war, warmongers and nuclear destruction. The Nelson Gallery at U.C. Davis owns an impressive 70 examples of the artist’s works. He was an accomplished draftsman/ artist who also practiced the art of etching and lithography. His works are owned by major museums and collections around the world.

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