Rudolf Bauer – A Brief Biography
Rudolf Bauer (1889-1953) was a German artist who produced both figurative and abstract works. His resurging popularity is exemplified by the current exhibit in a prominent San Francisco gallery (see link below).
Rudolf Bauer was born in 1889, in Lindenwald, in a Prussian province that today is part of Poland. While he was still young, his family moved to Berlin, where his father worked as an engine fitter. In 1901, he was given to his uncle to be raised, likely as a result of his mother’s death. He spent a short time studying at the Berlin Academy of Art; but he soon left to get his own art education.
From 1910 his humorous drawings and caricatures were being published in magazines and journals such as “Le Figaro”, “Ulk”, “Muskete”, and others. By 1912 he was associated with the avante garde Gallery “Der Sturm” and contributed to both the gallery and the magazine (also called Der Sturm). Der Sturm was founded by Herwarth Walden and played a crucial role in German Expressionism.
Starting in 1915, Bauer was participating in group shows at Der Sturm, and eventually he started teaching at the Der Sturm school. Bauer experimented with cubism and expressionism before moving to more abstract compositions. Der Sturm exhibited works by Hilla Rebay, Wassily Kandisky, Paul Klee, and others. Rudolf Bauer developed a relationship with Hilla Rebay that was to last through the 1940’s; Hilla played a key role in several phases of Bauer’s career. Der Sturm quickly dissolved when Hilla Rebay and the leader of the Der Sturm school left Berlin in 1924/25.
By the late 1920’s Bauer was producing caricatures again, but they were more elegant and less comical that those from a decade before. In 1929 Bauer became known to Solomon Guggenheim (through Hilla Rebay), started receiving support from Guggenheim, and founded a gallery in Berlin called “Geistreich”. He exhibited abstract art at Geistreich and started selling his works in America in the early 1930’s. His agent was Hilla Rebay, who was also director of the Guggenheim collection. In 1939, Bauer closed the Geistreich and emmigrated to America. (Actually he was “bought” out of a concentration camp by Hilla Rebay, using money from Solomon Guggenheim. He had run afoul of the growing Nazi crackdown on those who were suspected of not following the party line.)
In America, under the advice of Hilla Rebay, Bauer signed a contract with Guggenheim that he misunderstood at the time. (Bauer trusted Hilla to explain the contract to him as he did not read English.) Contrary to his initial understanding, he was not going to eventually own the house he was staying in, and everything he painted was destined for the Guggenheim’s future museum. Bauer petitioned to change the contract, but it was not changed. So Bauer stopped painting, but he did continue working with Hilla and Guggenheim to found the “Museum of Non-Objective Painting”, which was soon to be renamed “The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum”. Solomon Guggenheim, who once stated that Bauer was the world’s greatest living non-objective (abstract) painter, died in 1949. Guggenheim had collected over 300 of Bauer’s paintings, which were exhibited in the Guggenheim Museum on several occasions, until Bauer’s own death in 1953.
After Bauer’s death, a rebalancing of the works in the Guggenheim Museum by the descendents of Guggenheim led to Bauer’s works being removed. (The descendents disliked Hilla Rebay and much associated with her.) Since there were only a small number of Bauer’s works outside the Guggenheim collection, this removal of his works meant that the memory of Bauer in the art world was virtually lost until recent times. A resurgence of interest in Bauer’s works began in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
That renewed interest has reached a new level with the Weinstein Gallery’s retrospective show of Bauer’s works at their gallery in San Francisco (opened January 2007).