Style: Abstract, Modern
Background: Alexander Georg Rudolf Bauer was born on February 11, 1889 in Province of Posen, to middle class parents, Rudolf Bauer family moved to Berlin in his youth. Bauer made art from an early age, but his father was disapproving, even beating him when Bauer announced his intention to go to art school.
Education: Bauer left home and attended the Academy of Fine Arts
Achievements: Bauer supported himself as an artist by creating illustrations and caricatures for some of the major magazines and newspapers of the day. In 1912, as Bauer continued 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. He would continue to actively 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, with solo shows in 1919 and 1920.
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.”
Bauer lived with Rebay for a few months before moving to one of Guggenheim’s homes in Deal, New Jersey, an upscale and beautiful but isolated coastal town. At this point, Guggenheim proposed a contract with Bauer. Bauer, not properly understanding the English of the contract signed it, having been assured that his concerns were met. 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 now obligated to leave his future work to the Foundation. As part of this contract, Bauer also received the last payment for a Duesenberg car body custom designed by Bauer.
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 proved quickly not to be the case, and Bauer became very upset about the fate of his paintings. He stopped painting altogether, and made no further works the rest of his life, evidently not wanting to give the Foundation the satisfaction of having any more of his work. Eventually Bauer’s relationship with Rebay became very strained, culminating in a libel suit against Rebay because Rebay had insulted Bauer’s new wife, his maid Louise Huber, whom he had married in 1944.