Lot 122
  • 122

Rudolf Bauer

250,000 - 350,000 USD
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  • Rudolf Bauer
  • Symphony
  • Signed Rudolf Bauer Baut (lower left); signed Rudolf Bauer (on the reverse)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 37 7/8 by 43 5/8 in.
  • 95.5 by 110.5 cm


Das Geistreich, Rudolf Bauer Museum, Berlin
Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Leonard Hutton-Hutschnecker Gallery, New York (acquired from the above by 1970)
Acquired from the above in 1986


Berlin, Das Geistreich, circa 1922
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Art of Tomorrow, 1939, no. 32, illustrated in the catalogue
New York, Hutton-Hutschnecker Gallery, Rudolf Bauer, 1970, no. 32, illustrated in color on the back cover of the catalogue


This work is in overall very good condition and there is a lovely rich texture to the paint surface.The canvas is not lined. UV examination reveals a few very small spots of retouching to the left and upper extreme edges and a line of retouching to the upper part of the large red element in the lower right quadrant. There are some very fine lines of craquelure to some of the white pigments and some minor paint shrinkage to some of the black pigments.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

German-born Rudolf Bauer was a principal innovator and exponent of Non-objective painting, the term favored by Solomon R. Guggenheim himself to describe autonomous abstractions, from lyrical Expressionism to geometric Constructivism. Bauer began his career in Berlin at the onset of World War I, becoming a prominent figure in the avant-garde circle at Herwarth Walden's famed Galerie Der Sturm alongside fellow luminaries such as Paul Klee, Franz Marc, and Wassily Kandinsky. It was the latter artist who influenced Bauer most, and their shared passion for spiritualism and musically derived improvisation in art led them to collaboratively refine their styles and theories and exhibit together often throughout the late teens and early 1920s.

Bauer's daring new brand of abstraction was first exposed to the American public in 1920, when the renowned collector and Société Anonyme co-founder Katherine Dreier purchased a major oil similar to the present work at Der Sturm and exhibited it in New York to rave reviews. Despite these early accolades, Bauer's true success came seven years later when copper magnate, and then fledgling art collector, Solomon R. Guggenheim was shown works by Bauer and Kandinsky by German art advisor and future Guggenheim Foundation director, Hilla Rebay. Guggenheim was immediately smitten by the vanguard genius of the Non-objective art and devoted himself to building what is now one of the greatest modern art collections in the world around the primacy of Bauer and Kandinsky. Guggenheim acquired hundreds of works by Bauer over the years and in 1939 went so far as to preemptively purchase the artist's entire estate. He filled his massive suite at the Plaza Hotel exclusively with Bauer's work, gave Bauer funds to create a museum devoted to Non-objective art in Germany, and even entrusted Bauer to purchase works from other emerging European artists on his behalf. As a result Bauer was responsible for selecting many of the greatest Kandinsky's in the Guggenheim collection, though a letter from Hilla Rebay to Bauer reveals that in one case, "Mr. Guggenheim likes the Kandinsky very much but (he likes) yours better. He would like all your most recent works. He is very excited and wants nothing else in his bedroom" (quoted in Joan M. Lukach, Hilla Rebay: In Search of the Spirit in Art, New York, 1983, p. 58).

The present work is a dynamic and vibrant example of Bauer's dramatic Expressionist style which he developed at Der Sturm between 1916 and 1920. It was at this time that Bauer first encountered the art of Kandinsky, and the mutual influence is visible in works by the Russian master of the same period (see fig. 1). By 1925, Bauer permanently abandoned this expressive, biomorphic style in favor of more geometric constructions, and as result early masterpieces such as the present work are exceptionally rare. The precise relationships of color, line and form are a testament to Bauer's inspired yet meticulous process, improvising with complete fluency of emotion and technique, while carefully maintaining balance and harmony in a unified composition. The turbulent aura and ominous black forms may stem from the coinciding horrors of World War I inhabiting Bauer's subconscious, but the work itself remains a completely autonomous object, entirely invented and original. As Bauer himself said, "A painting should not interpret but create, art means giving birth... a painting should not be an imitation but a complex by itself; nature was not fashioned after nature, it was created. The same should apply to painting" (quoted in Der Sturm (exhibition catalogue), Galerie Der Sturm, Berlin, 1917).