Hilla Rebay ( von Ehrenwiesen) 1895-1967
collage, watercolor and ink on paper
11x13" signed on lower left
Hilla Rebay 1895-1967
Hilla Rebay was credited largely for the existence of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, Hilla Rebay also was an accomplished artist in modernist styles that included collage and biogmorphic-linear oil paintings. She is remembered primarily for being the person exposing the American public to avant-garde art and creating revolutionary museum environments for that art. To remind the public that Rebay was an artist in her own right, curators at the Guggenheim Museum held a retrospective of her work in the spring and summer of 2005.
Hilla Rebay (pronounced reh-bye) was born to minor nobility in Strasbourg, Alsace and had the full name of Baroness Hildegard Anna Augusta Elisabeth Rebay von Ehrenwiesen. Her father, a career army officer from Bavaria, and her mother encouraged her obvious childhood art talent. She studied locally and then enrolled in 1909 at the Academie Julian in Paris.
There she was much influenced by avant-garde movements especially theosophist artists and writers led by Wassily Kandinsky "who helped formulate her lifelong belief in the power of intuition in art-making and other areas of life" (Glueck). In 1910, she spent time in Munich where she was further exposed to modern art, and she returned to Paris in 1913, having exhibited work in Cologne and Munich.
By 1914, she was exhibiting with the Secession Group in Munich, the Salon des Independants in Paris, and the November Gruppe in Berlin--all rebelling against prevalent realism and traditional teaching methods. In Berlin, she associated with many modernist artists including Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Marc Chagall. In 1917, she med Rudolph Bauer, a German painter in non-objective styles who became her long-time lover and in the future the cause of controversy because she was accused of devoting disproportionate exhibition space to him at the Guggenheim Museum. It was said that her enthusiasm for him and his work was "unbounded" (Glueck) and that he inspired her paintings "alive with restless, jostling, organic forms".
Hilla Rebay first visited the United States in 1927 and stayed for an extended time period, which included giving painting lessons to Louise Nevelson, seeking portrait commissions, designing posters and exhibiting her own work at venues including the Worcester Art Mluseum and a Manhattan gallery. Among her portrait commission subjects was Solomon Guggenheim, whose wealthy family had extensive western mining interests. Rebay had met Solomon and his wife Irene when they purchased two of her paintings at the Manhattan show. To that time, the couple were collectors of conventional art, but during the sittings, Hilla talked to him of what was going on in avant-garde art circles. She brought painters of leading-edge styles to meet Guggenheim and encouraged him to collect their art, which he did--filling his Plaza Hotel apartment.
Rebay supervised the collection, and in 1937, she led the establishment of a Guggenheim foundation to build "The Museum of Non-Objective Art," achieved in 1939 in rented gallery space on 54th Street. The main focus of the collection was works of the Dutch De Stijl Group that included Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg, and of Bauhaus artists from Germany such as Paul Klee, Vasily Kandinsky, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.
Although she was committed to purely non-objective works, she added to the collection abstract works by George Seurat, Henri Matisse, Henri Rousseau, Pablo Picasso, and others in France who were experimenting with Cubism, Futurism, etc.