Rudolf Bauer’s Scandalous Career Inspires a New Play

Rudolf Bauer, White Caro (1938). Photo: courtesy Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco.
Rudolf Bauer, White Caro (1938). Photo: courtesy Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco.
Hilla Rebay, Solomon R. Guggenheim, and Rudolf Bauer in Germany (1930). Photo: courtesy Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco.

Hilla Rebay, Solomon R. Guggenheim, and Rudolf Bauer in Germany (1930).
Photo: Courtesy Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco.

Twentieth century German painter Rudolf Bauer, a favorite of Solomon Guggenheim, survived Nazi prison only to have his career become an art-historical footnote. A series of events in New York this August and September look to resurrect the reputation of the largely-forgotten artist with an exhibition, public television documentary, and Bauer, a new play by Lauren Gunderson.

Born in 1889, Bauer was introduced to Gugggenheim through his lover, a painter and baroness named Hilla Rebay. The collector was soon infatuated with the couple, and became Bauer’s patron, purchasing as many of the artist’s abstract, “non-objective” paintings as he could.

Although it was Guggenheim who rescued Bauer from Gestaspo prison when he was arrested by the Nazis in 1938 for his “degenerate art,” the two had a falling out not long after. Bauer ceased painting, and, after Guggenheim’s death, Rebay was fired from her role as the curator at the Guggenheim Foundation.

Rudolf Bauer, <em>White Caro</em> (1938). Photo: courtesy Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco.

Rudolf Bauer, White Caro (1938).
Photo: courtesy Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco.

When New York’s Guggenheim Museum opened in 1959, not a single Bauer painting was on view, and the artist’s scandalous tale of love, sex, betrayal, and self-destruction faded from the public conscious. Though many of his paintings are still stashed in the Guggenheim’s massive storage warehouses, a number of Bauer’s works will once again see the light of day at the German Consulate General in New York City, running September 2–19.

Both the play and the documentary, Betrayal: The Life and Art of Rudoph Bauer, explore the complicated relationships between the artist, his mistress, and his patron, while highlighting Bauer’s important contributions to the genesis and history of modern art. Bauer will enjoy a limited Off-Broadway engagement at New York’s 59E59 Theaters from September 2 through October 12, while Betrayal will air on New York’s channel THIRTEEN on Monday, August 25 at 9 p.m.

 


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