Rudolf Bauer was born in 1889 in Lindenwald, Germany. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin and continued his art education independently after 1910. Early in his career, Bauer experimented with Impressionism and was a published cartoonist. By 1911, his style changed to Cubism. Bauer would become known for his non-objective, modernist style of painting.
In the late 1910s, Bauer became part of the avant-garde art movement in Berlin and a contributor to magazines like Der Sturm, a magazine and gallery run by Herwarth Walden. Walden was a great supporter of Bauer’s work and others, such as Vasily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, and Marc Chagall. In 1916, he had met Hilla Rebay, a baroness and fellow artist, who would have tremendous influence on his life and career. Bauer also co-founded short-lived artistic movements called Novembergruppe and Die Krater. In 1927 Rudolf Bauer exhibited at the Royal Palace in Berlin. That same year, Rebay moved to New York and met Solomon R. Guggenheim. Guggenheim was interested in collecting non-objective art, which would included over 200 works by Bauer. Bauer assisted Guggenheim in purchasing other works by Kandinsky, Chagall, Marc, Léger. In 1930, Bauer founded Das Geistreich, or the “Realm of the Spirit,”a museum devoted to his own non-objective work as well as the work of Vasily Kandinsky.
In the 1930s, Bauer’s style changed to be more balanced and geometric. In 1933, he was featured in the exhibitions Modern European Art and Modern Works of Art at the Museum of Modern Art. Bauer traveled to the United States in 1936 to exhibit his work at the Gibbes Museum in Charleston, South Carolina and a solo show at the Arts Club of Chicago. Back in Europe the following year, Rudolf Bauer’s work was part of the Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich and he was arrested by the Nazis. Das Geistreich, his museum, was also closed by the Nazis in 1939.
Bauer moved to the United States in 1939. For a house in Deal, New Jersey, a Duesenberg and monthly stipend, Bauer signed a contract for over 100 works that he had not been paid for as well as all his future paintings. The contract, which was not what he thought he was agreeing to, also removed Bauer’s control in the running of Guggenheim’s new museum that housed all his work and put the power in the hands of Rebay and Guggenheim. In protest, he never painted again. Rudolf Bauer died in 1953.