Robert Wilson was born in Waco, Texas. He studied at the University of Texas and at the Pratt Institute, New York City. In the 1960s he was recognized as one of the leading lights of avant-garde theatre in Manhattan. With the performance company, the Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds, he created Deafman Glance (1970) and in 1976 his opera Einstein on the Beach with music by Philip Glass brought him worldwide recognition and changed conventional perceptions of opera.
Since then, Robert Wilson has staged both original works and works from the traditional repertoire, notably: The CIVIL warS (1983-1985), Salome at La Scala (1987), Black Rider at the Théâtre du Châtelet (1990), Orlando with Isabelle Huppert at the Théâtre de l’Odéon (1993), Wagner's Ring at the Zurich Opera (2002), Lulu by Frank Wedekind with music by Lou Reed at the Théâtre de la Ville (2011), The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic in Manchester (2011) and at the Teatro Real, Madrid (2012),The Old Woman by Daniil Kharms at the Théâtre de la Ville (2013), Peter Pan with the Berliner Ensemble and music by CocoRosie (2013), Pushkin’s Fairy Tales in Moscow (2015), The Sandman with Anna Calvi at the Ruhrfestspielhaus in Recklinghausen (2017) and recently Mary Said What She Said at the Théâtre de la Ville (2019). In 1998 the renowned production of Bluebeard's Castle & Expectation, with Jessye Norman in the role of the Woman, premiered at the Salzburg Festival.
Wilson's drawings, paintings and sculptures have been presented around the world in solo and group exhibitions, and his works are held in various private collections and museums.
Robert Wilson has been honored with numerous awards for excellence, including a Pulitzer Prize nomination (1986), two Premio Ubu awards (1992/1994), the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale (1993), and an Olivier Award (2013). He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2000), as well as the German Academy of the Arts (1996), and holds 8 Honorary Doctorate degrees. France pronounced him Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters (2003) and Officer of the Legion of Honor (2014); Germany awarded him the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit (2014).
Wilson is the founder and Artistic Director of The Watermill Center, a laboratory for the Arts in Water Mill, New York.