Robert Indiana

About the Artist

Robert Indiana in 2013 in front of one of his famous “LOVE” designs at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. (Lauren Casselberry/AP)

Robert Indiana is one of America’s most renown contemporary artists. His iconic works are recognized throughout the world.

Early Life and Education

Robert Indiana was born in New Castle, Indiana in 1928. He was adopted by Earl and Carmen Clark, who moved often, resulting in Robert being pulled in and out of different schools. Indiana attributes the family living, in twenty-one houses before he was seventeen, to his mother’s ‘wanderlust.’

His parents eventually divorced and, when he was fourteen, Indiana went to live with his father in Indianapolis, in order to attend the art program at Arsenal Technical High School. Indiana graduated as valedictorian of Arsenal Tech, editor of the class year book and captain of the honor society, with medals in Latin and English studies. Rather than accepting an award to go on to the John Herron Art Institute, Indian joined the U.S. Air Force.

After his discharge from the Air Force, Indiana enrolled in the Art Institute of Chicago under the G.I. Bill, where he completed his B.F.A. In 1953, his paintings, along with those of Claes Oldenburg and George Yelich, were shown at Club St. Elmo, a Chicago restaurant. A few months later, he won a scholarship to attend summer classes at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine.


In 1954, Indiana took a short trip through Europe and arrived in New York, broke and, officially, calling himself Robert Indiana. Indiana found a job working at the Friedrichs art supply company to make ends meet. During this time, Indiana met other young artists like Ellsworth Kelly and Cy Twombly, who encouraged, not only his painting, but his poetry.

In the 1960s, Indiana had begun to do single-word paintings. The American Dream l was included in a MoMA exhibit and received high praise. When MoMA chose LOVE for their 1965 Christmas card, the works of Indiana began to seep into popular culture. LOVE was on one of the best selling US postage stamps in 1973 and has been a universally recognized sign.

The Hartley Elegies and other works have been exhibited at the Whitney and other museums around the world. The seclusive Indiana native lives and works in a large estate home in Vinalhaven, Maine.


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