Hilla von Rebay
July 5, 1890|
|Died||March 9, 1967
Greens Farms, Connecticut
|Employer||Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum|
|Successor||James Johnson Sweeney|
|Parents||Antonie and Baron Franz Josef Rebay von Ehrenwiesen|
Hildegard Anna Augusta Elizabeth Freiin Rebay von Ehrenwiesen, Baroness Hilla von Rebay, or simply Hilla Rebay (31 May 1890, Strasbourg, Alsace-Lorraine – 27 September 1967, Greens Farms, Connecticut), was a notable abstract artist in the early 20th century and the co-founder and first director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. She was a key figure in advising Solomon R. Guggenheim to collect non-objective art, a collection that would later form the basis of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum collection, and she was also influential in selecting Frank Lloyd Wright to design the current Guggenheim museum, which is now known as a modernist icon in New York City.
Early life and education
Hilla von Rebay was born into a German aristocratic family in Strasbourg, Alsace-Lorraine, then part of the German Empire. She was the second child of Antonie and Baron Franz Josef Rebay von Ehrenwiesen, an officer in the Prussian army. She showed an early aptitude for art and she both studied and exhibited in Paris, Cologne, Munich and Berlin. Through Jean Arp, Rebay was introduced to the artwork and writings of the European avant-garde including Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Franz Marc, and Rudolf Bauer, and to the Galerie Der Sturm in Berlin. From the mid-1910s to early 1920s, she became an ardent promoter of non-objective art.
In January 1927, Rebay immigrated to the United States and settled in New York City. An avid art collector, she became a friend and confidante of Solomon R. Guggenheim, and helped advise his art purchases. In particular, she encouraged him to purchase non-objective art by Rudolf Bauer and Wassily Kandinsky.
These purchases later founded the basis of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation's Museum of Non-Objective Painting, which opened in 1939 in a showroom located at 24 East 54th Street. The first exhibition, entitled Art of Tomorrow, opened on June 1, 1939. Rebay served as the director of the museum until 1952. The next director was James Johnson Sweeney who had previously been a curator at the Museum of Modern Art.
In June 1943 Rebay wrote to the noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright to commission a "museum-temple" to house the growing collection. While the new museum was being built, the Museum of Non-Objective Painting moved to a townhouse located at 1071 5th Avenue, where Rebay continued to organize exhibitions. The new museum opened on October 21, 1959 as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Rebay was acknowledged to have excellent taste in modern art. She continued to paint and achieved some recognition for her abstract works. Although she was long a confidante to Solomon Guggenheim, others in the family found her personally difficult, especially his niece Peggy. After Solomon Guggenheim died in 1949, the family expelled her from the board of directors.
Legacy and honors
Following Rebay's death in 1967, part of her extensive personal collection of art was given to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum as the Hilla Rebay Collection, which includes works by artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Albert Gleizes and Kurt Schwitters.
- 2004, the German documentary filmmaker Sigrid Faltin made the film The Guggenheim and the Baroness: The Story of Hilla Rebay.
- In 2005, a companion book Die Baroness und das Guggenheim Hilla von Rebay – Eine Deutsche Künstlerin in New York was published.
- In 2005, nearly forty years after her death, the Guggenheim Museum honored Rebay with a special exhibition dedicated to her role in the foundation and her collection, entitled Art of Tomorrow: Hilla Rebay and Solomon R. Guggenheim (May 20- August 10, 2005). It opened in New York and traveled to Europe.
- The Hilla von Rebay Foundation was established in her name at the Guggenheim Museum to promote non-objective art.
- The Hilla Rebay International Fellowship was founded in 2001 to offer a current graduate student the opportunity to undertake a paid rotating position at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice.
- In 2014, Rebay was depicted in Bauer, a play about the life and art of Rudolf Bauer and his relationship with Rebay. The play had its world premiere at San Francisco Playhouse.
- Joan M. Lukach, Hilla Rebay – In the Search of the Spirit in Art, New York: George Braziller, 1983, ISBN 0807610674.
- ^ Regarding personal names: Freiin is a title, translated as Baroness, not a first or middle name. The title is for the unmarried daughters of a Freiherr.
- "The Hilla Rebay Collection" Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, retrieved 29 January 2014.
- "Art of Tomorrow: Hilla Rebay and Solomon R. Guggenheim" Deutsche Guggenheim, retrieved January 29, 2014.
- Hall, Lee. "The Passions of Hilla Rebay" The New Criterion, retrieved 29 January 2014.
- "The Hilla Rebay Collection" Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, retrieved January 29, 2014.
- "Hilla von Rebay Foundation Archive" Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, retrieved May 15, 2014.
- Glueck, Grace. "James Johnson Sweeney Dies", The New York Times, retrieved 25 June 2014.
- "The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum", retrieved 29 January 2014.
- Hansen, Eric T. "The Forgotten Baroness" The Atlantic Times, retrieved 29 January 2014.
- "The Dream of Non-Objectivity" DB Artmag, retrieved 29 January 2014.
- Biography, p. 3 at "The Baroness". retrieved 29 January 2014.
- The Rebay Project at "The Baroness"
- Die Baroness und das Guggenheim Hilla von Rebay – Eine Deutsche Künstlerin in New York at "The Baroness"
- "Art of Tomorrow: Hilla Rebay and Solomon R. Guggenheim", press release May 2005, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, retrieved 29 January 2014.
- "The Hilla Rebay Foundation Grant", Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, retrieved 29 January 2014.
- "Hilla Rebay International Fellowship" Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, retrieved 29 January 2014.
- "Lauren Gunderson's new play Bauer tackles art and history"
- Guggenheim Museum | Hilla von Rebay collection
- Oral history interview with Hilla von Rebay, 1966, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
- Hilla von Rebay, Memorial website, Teningen (German)