Robert Carson Arneson was born in Benicia, California, a small coastal town located North of the Carquinez Strait in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is widely-admired for his groundbreaking work in ceramics which he believed should not be constrained by utilitarian concerns. He exhibited artistic talent at a very young age.
This willingness to break boundaries and the wry sense of humor that infuses much of his art brought him notoriety as being among California's "Funk" artists. He created several self-portraits in mixed media, including mirrors, photography and drawings, each of which presented the artist in a different way and, sometimes, seemed to suggest a different personality. A studied artist, however, he was the recipient of a Master's of Fine Arts from Mills College in 1958. By 1962 he was serving as the Head of the UC Davis Ceramics Department and he became a full professor of ceramics at UC Davis in 1973.
Robert Carson Arneson, though known for his irreverence and forever associated with the groundbreaking art of California, had a somber side that expressed itself in his later works. In the 1980's, he suffered with liver cancer and the darkness of that time is reflected in his works of that era.