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Last updated: 1/25/2017
Home / Gallery Tour 1 / Gallery News / Gallery Tour 2 / Artists

Rudolf Bauer (Germany, 1889-1953, USA)

German Expressionism: People / Lovers /Social Interaction

"Käthe Kollwitz and German Expressionism" featured over fifty works by Käthe Kollwitz plus additional works by Josef Albers,
Ernst Barlach, Rudolf Bauer, Max Beckmann, Peter Behrens, Heinrich Campendonck, Marc Chagall, Lovis Corinth, Otto Dix,
Lyonel Feininger, Conrad Felixmuller, Hans Fronius, Alfons Graber, Otto Greiner, Georg Grosz, Erich Heckel, Hannah Hoch,
Karl Hofer, Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, Ludwig Meidner, Edvard Munch,
Gabrielle Munter, Heinrich Nauen, Emile Nolde, Max Pechstein, Hilla von Rebay, Georges Rouault, Rudolf Schlichter,
Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Siegfried Schott, Georg Tappert, Wilhelm Wagner, and others.

German Expressionist Drawings

The Russians: Chagall, Sonia Delaunay, Goncharova, Larionov, and Malevich
Rudolf Bauer was a German-born painter who was involved in the avant-garde group Der Sturm in Berlin, and whose work would become central to the Non-Objective art collection of Solomon R. Guggenheim. Bauer's father disapproved of his desire to become an artist and even beat him when he announced his intention to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin. Bauer supported himself as an artist by creating illustrations and caricatures for some of the major magazines and newspapers of the day. In 1912, while Bauer continuing to do figurative and commercial work, he began working in an abstract mode. In 1915 Bauer was invited to participate in a group show at Der Sturm, the most important artistic center in Berlin. He continued to participate in the Der Sturm gallery scene through the mid-1920s. He had his first solo show there in 1917 (with 120 “Lyrical Abstract” works), and had solo shows in 1919 and 1920. Among the artists who were in the Der Sturm group were Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, and Franz Marc. Bauer, like Klee, became a teacher in the Sturm School.

In 1917 Bauer was introduced to the Baroness Hilla Rebay von Ehrenwiesen. Rebay, also an artist, met Bauer at Der Sturm, and they became lovers. Bauer and Rebay shared a studio beginning in 1919, but her family did not approve of Bauer. In the early 1920s she traveled to Italy. She and Bauer continued to write to one another regularly, but they became friends more than lovers. In 1920 Katherine Sophie Dreier, the preeminent collector and co-founder of the Société Anonyme, with Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, visited Berlin and bought several works by Bauer including the oil Andante V (now in the permanent collection of the Yale University Art Gallery). She would later write in 1949 that Bauer’s paintings “were very beautiful and subtle in color and helped to introduce abstract art to the people. We had no artist in those early years whose work so appealed to the public in general and which received so much response.”

Bauer remained in Berlin in the 1920s and continued to make both abstract, or as the movement came to be known, “Non-Objective” art [a translation of the German gegenstandslos], as well as figurative work to support himself. In 1927 Hilla Rebay traveled to the United States. A year later she began a portrait commission of copper magnate Solomon R. Guggenheim. Rebay showed Guggenheim Non-Objective art by Bauer and Kandinsky, and he decided to start a collection of the work. In 1930 Solomon Guggenheim and his wife, Irene, traveled with Rebay to Germany to meet Bauer and Kandinsky. By this point, Bauer’s work had moved from lyrical to geometric abstraction, which would dominate the rest of his artistic career. Guggenheim bought several of Bauer’s new works and also put him on a stipend, which allowed Bauer to open his own museum for his work and the work of other Non-Objective painters such as Kandinsky. He called his museum Das Geistreich, or “The Realm of the Spirit.”

In June 1937 Guggenheim formed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for his collection, with Rebay as its official curator. The Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina, hosted the first public showing of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Collection of Non-Objective Paintings in March 1936. Bauer traveled to the United States for the first time to be present at the opening of the exhibition. From that show a solo show of his work traveled to the Arts Club of Chicago, where he also visited. For the next four years this show was also exhibited at other museums.

In 1938, upon his return from an exhibition of his work in Paris, Bauer was arrested by the Nazis for his “degenerate” art and for speculating on the black market — meaning selling his work to Guggenheim. The previous year Bauer’s work had been included in the infamous Degenerate Art show in Munich, organized by the Nazis to show all the deviant, abstract art that was corrupting the German nation. In spite of this Bauer had refused to move from his home country. Upon his arrest Bauer was held in a Gestapo prison for several months, as Rebay and Guggenheim worked to free him. After several false starts, he was finally released unconditionally in August 1938. During his time in prison, he created dozens of non-objective drawings on scavenged scraps of paper. He spent the next months getting his paperwork in order and made the difficult decision to leave his homeland, emigrating to the United States in July 1939, just months before the beginning of World War II. Bauer arrived in New York City just after the official opening of the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, in midtown Manhattan. Located at 24 East 54th Street, the new museum was unlike anything the New York art world had seen. The floors as well as the walls were carpeted, and the large paintings hung in oversized frames very close to the ground. The museum played recordings by Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin constantly and exclusively. Bauer’s work Orange Accent was featured on the invitation to the opening exhibition titled The Art of Tomorrow. Bauer lived with Rebay for a few months before moving to one of Guggenheim’s homes in Deal, New Jersey, a beautiful, isolated coastal town. At this point, Guggenheim proposed a contract with Bauer. Bauer, misunderstanding the terms of the contract signed it. He thought he was to receive a lump-sum amount for 110 paintings he had already furnished Guggenheim. Instead Guggenheim put that amount ($300,000) in trust for Bauer to receive a monthly stipend. He was also obligated to leave his future work to the Foundation. Bauer’s life’s work had become completely tied up in the Foundation, and he had been assured he would have a role in running it. This quickly proved false, and Bauer became very upset about the fate of his paintings. He stopped painting altogether, and made no further art the rest of his life. In 1949 things changed drastically for Rebay when Solomon Guggenheim died. Shortly after Guggenheim's death the trustees abandoned Guggenheim’s original vision for the collection. Hilla Rebay was asked to step down as curator, and all of Guggenheim’s Non-Objective collection was put into storage. In 1953 Rudolf Bauer died of lung cancer. The newly-renamed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum opened in 1959 without a single work of Bauer’s on its walls.

Bauer’s work was basically unseen for the next two decades. In 1967 Bauer’s work was shown at the Guggenheim in Seven Decades, A Selection for the first time since his death. In 1969 his work was given a large retrospective at the Galerie Gmurzynska in Cologne. This was followed by several solo exhibitions in New York and Europe. Since that time, Bauer’s work has begun to get more attention from art collectors and museums. In 2005 the Guggenheim Museum mounted Art of Tomorrow: Hilla Rebay and Solomon R. Guggenheim, which featured many Bauer works and traveled also to the Museum Villa Stuck and the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin. A major retrospective of Bauer’s work took place at Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco, in 2007. (Most of the information in this introduction was drawn from Lowy's essay listed below.)

Select Bibliography: Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, et al, Art Of Tomorrow: Hilla Von Rebay and Solomon R Guggenheim (NY: Guggenheim Museum, 2005; Sigrid Faltin, Die Baroness und das Guggenheim: Hilla von Rebay, eine deutsche Künstlerin in New York (Lengwil, Switzerland: Libelle-Verlag, 2005); Jennifer Gross, The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America (New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2006); Steven Lowy and Robert Rosenblum, Rudolf Bauer (San Francisco: Weinstein Gallery, 2007); Rolph Scarlett with Harriet Tannin, The Baroness, the Mogul & the Forgotten History of the First Guggenheim Museum (NY: Midmarch Arts Press, 2003).
Amorous Couple. Original lithograph on tan paper, c. 1914-1921. Edition size unknown. Our impression is numbered 36 lower left, signed in the stone and pencil-signed lower right. Bauer was involved in the avant-garde group Der Sturm in Berlin and showed with them from 1915-1925. His work was central to the Non-Objective art collection of Solomon R. Guggenheim. His works were included in the Nazi's Degenerative Art Show and, after returning from America, where he sold some paintings to Guggenheim, he was arrested and jailed by the Gestapo for "Black-market speculation." Bailed out by Guggenheim and spirited to the U.S. in 1939, his work was crucially important to the early years of the Guggenheim Museum's exhibitions until, after Solomon Guggenheim's death, all of the "Non-Objective" art, except for Kandinsky's works, was put into storage. There has been a revival of his work recently. In 1967 Bauer’s work was shown at the Guggenheim in Seven Decades: A Selection for the first time since his death. In 1969 his work was given a large retrospective at the Galerie Gmurzynska in Cologne. This was followed by several solo exhibitions in New York and Europe. Since that time, Bauer’s work has begun to get more attention from art collectors and museums. In 2005 the Guggenheim Museum mounted Art of Tomorrow: Hilla Rebay and Solomon R. Guggenheim, which featured many Bauer works and traveled also to the Museum Villa Stuck and the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin. A major retrospective of Bauer’s work took place at Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco, in 2007, and Steven Lowy's study, Rudolf Bauer, published for the show illustrates a gouache, ink, and watercolor of this same subject; see p. 131) . Image size: 421x287mm. Price: $1750.
Absract Composition. Original lithograph on tan paper, c. 1923. Edition size unknown. Our impression signed in the stone and pencil-signed lower right. Bauer was involved in the avant-garde group Der Sturm in Berlin and showed with them from 1915-1925. His work was central to the Non-Objective art collection of Solomon R. Guggenheim. His works were included in the Nazi's Degenerative Art Show and, after returning from America, where he sold some paintings to Guggenheim, he was arrested and jailed by the Gestapo for "Black-market speculation." Bailed out by Guggenheim and spirited to the U.S. in 1939, his work was crucially important to the early years of the Guggenheim Museum's exhibitions. In 1967 Bauer’s work was shown at the Guggenheim in Seven Decades: A Selection for the first time since his death. In 1969 his work was given a large retrospective at the Galerie Gmurzynska in Cologne. This was followed by several solo exhibitions in New York and Europe. Since that time, Bauer’s work has begun to get more attention from art collectors and museums. In 2005 the Guggenheim Museum mounted Art of Tomorrow: Hilla Rebay and Solomon R. Guggenheim, which featured many Bauer works and traveled also to the Museum Villa Stuck and the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin. A major retrospective of Bauer’s work took place at the Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco, in 2007. Image size: 132x287mm. Price: $1750.

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