RUDOLF BAUERGerman 1889 - 1953

This painting is an exceptionally rare example of Bauer's early expressionistic style, possessing the raw energy, daring palette and compositional harmony for which he gained acclaim. Painted in 1919, it was realised when Bauer was represented by Der Sturm, the avant-garde gallery that defined Berlin's modern art scene in the years surrounding the First World War. In contrast to the more geometric constructions that Bauer realised after 1925, in 'Rote form' each shape, line and burst of colour convey remarkable emotional intensity. Bauer expounded this aspect of his work in a 1918 essay “The Cosmic Movement”, written for Herwarth Walden's 'Expressionism: The Turning Point'. The article explores the primacy of feeling in the act of creation, illustrating through a series of images the ways in which emotions such as calm, restlessness, anger and doubt can be captured by line and colour.

With its rhythmic, flowing composition and dynamic colours and light, the painting is moreover imbued with a sense of harmony and movement that reflects Bauer's belief in the equivalence of music and art. Comparing his work with that of Kandinsky, Bauer's most important influence, the poet and critic Theodor Däubler wrote: “Kandinsky is the first artist, after a long struggle, to discard the object. Bauer was able to instantly produce compositions of painterly-musical feeling... Bauer is close to Cubism and transforms his musical dreams into colour. . . . Compared to Kandinsky, his work is more tactile, almost sculptural in character.”

The present work once formed part of Solomon Guggenheim's collection. He had acquired it from Das Geistreich (The Realm of the Spirit), an art salon that Bauer established in Berlin in 1930, having made a substantial amount of money from earlier sales to his patron. Bauer conceived of it as a "temple of non-objectivity," a haven for Guggenheim and other collectors with a taste for abstraction. Showing primarily his own paintings and those of Wassily Kandinsky, it was the first museum dedicated to Non-Objective art. Indeed as Susanne Neuburger has noted, "it was the first germ of the idea that was to become the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum." 'Rote form' held a prominent place in Guggenheim's collection and was illustrated in 'The Art of Tomorrow, the fifth catalogue of the Solomon R. Guggenheim collection of non-objective paintings'.
Das Geistreich (R. Bauer), Berlin
Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York
Fischer Fine Art Ltd, London
Sale, Kunsthaus Lempertz, Cologne, 1975, lot 30
Acquired from the above by the father of the previous owner

Berlin, Galerie Der Sturm (Herwarth Walden),
Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes, Arte Aleman en Venezuela, 1979

The Art of Tomorrow: Fifth catalogue of the Solomon R. Guggenheim collection of non-objective paintings, New York, 1939, p. 76, no. 21, illustrated

RUDOLF BAUERGerman 1889 - 1953

One of the first and most influential abstract artists, Rudolf Bauer's sudden fall into obscurity is amongst the most complex and tragic stories in twentieth century art. As evidenced by ‘Rudolf Bauer: Tomorrow Today' (Sotheby's 2014 selling exhibition) today Bauer's works are being rediscovered, though they still remain exceptionally affordable for their historic and aesthetic significance. In the first half of the twentieth century, Bauer belonged to the leading vanguard, exhibiting alongside the likes of Picasso, Kandinsky, Mondrian and Miró. His ‘non-objective' abstract style would profoundly influence modern art, inspiring painters from Jackson Pollock to the Abstract Expressionists. Yet by the end of the Second World War he had stopped painting and fallen into obscurity.

This complex trajectory began in 1917, when Bauer met his one-time lover and most fervent supporter, Hilla Rebay. Rebay moved to New York in 1927, where she met Solomon Guggenheim, introducing him to non-objective art and Bauer's work. Guggenheim became Bauer's most important patron and proponent; he amassed over 300 of his works and Bauer's vibrant, abstract paintings were vital to his Foundation's first exhibitions. Their relationship deteriorated when Bauer, urged by Rebay, signed a contract that left all of his current and future output to the Guggenheim Foundation in exchange for a monthly stipend. Having signed a contract in a language that he did not understand, Bauer felt despondent and betrayed. He never painted again. His work was relegated to the museum's basement following Guggenheim's death in 1949.