Rudolf Bauer - Forgotten Twentieth Century Master Painter

In 1954, Rudolf Bauer’s wife Louise was quoted saying: “Though the truth be crushed to the earth, it shall rise again and to my mind has come the realisation that the many years of silence must be broken. The world must and should know the truth of my husband’s life, his hopes, his labours, his honesty and his bitter betrayal.”
Bauer had died of lung cancer in November 1953, a forgotten hero of twentieth century art. It could have been a very different outcome at the time for Bauer, who had in the years up to his death felt that his contribution to art would largely go unrecognised.
His patron Solomon Guggenheim had planned to make his work, much of which he owned, a central feature in his proposed Museum of Non-Objective Painting. However, after he passed away in 1949 at the age of 88, the powers that be ‘conspired’ against Bauer, Solomon and their supporters.
Trustees at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, unhappy with the way in which things had been unfolding, made dramatic changes to the curatorial programme in the years that followed. They also adapted the overall vision of their leader so that Bauer was overlooked and the museum’s name and philosophy was rebranded. When the museum finally opened in 1959, not a single painting by the German abstract artist hung on its walls.
“He died thinking that his work was gone, that it was deliberately erased from history, and I can’t think of a worse thing for an artist to feel,” the playwright Lauren Gunderson, whose play BAUER is currently being performed in New York, told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s such an extraordinary thing for his work to start to come back.”
Along with the play, he is currently the subject of a thoughtful new exhibition at the German Consulate in New York. These recent cultural surveys follow on from a spate of similar investigations and presentations into his life and contribution to avant-garde art in the twentieth century.
In a recent essay, Peter Selz, professor emeritus of Art History at the University of California, welcomes this resurgence, which, “after many years of disregard” is doing well to make up for the shortcomings of those whose parochial mindset did much to break Bauer’s heart and erase Solomon’s grand presentation.
“Never was I so impressed instantaneously as when I saw the first non-objective painting, a watercolour by RudolfBauer,” Solomon once said. “To get such beauty from something that has been produced from the artist’s own imagination appealed to me enormously, because in my business career my object has always been the introduction of something entirely new and created.”
Rudolf Bauer – Forgotten Twentieth Century Master Painter at the German Consulate in New York runs until September 19th 2014.
Cadogan Tate can ship works of art to and from New York from most destinations around the world.