Herbert Bayer


About The Artist


Considered the last surviving member of the Bauhaus, the prolific Austrian designer and polymath Herbert Bayer (1900 – 1985) worked across graphics, architecture, exhibition design, typography, advertising, painting, sculpture, photography and textiles. Bayer studied at the Bauhaus under the tutelage of numerous icons of the age including Paul Klee, László Moholy-Nagy and Wassily Kandinsky, where he learned the principles of modernist design. After graduating in 1925, Walter Gropius, the eminent architect and director of the school, appointed him as director of printing and advertising. Bayer’s signature streamlined aesthetic, employing lowercase, sans-serif lettering was established during this time.

Bayer went on to work as an art director for Vogue in Berlin in 1928 and remained there until his work was featured in the infamous Nazi propaganda exhibition, Degenerate Art, in 1937. He emigrated to the United States the following year and, at first, worked in New York City. Attracted by a job offer from industrialist Walter Paepcke, he moved to Aspen, CO in 1946 where he designed a number of prominent buildings in the city, though it is his promotional posters for skiing resorts that brought him considerable acclaim. A chance encounter with oil tycoon Robert O. Anderson resulted in Bayer working as art and design consultant for Anderson’s company ARCO in Los Angeles. There he amassed an enormous collection of works as well as donating several of his own pieces, which were kept at company offices in Santa Barbara, California. 

Bayer’s diverse output is characterized by simplified lines, geometric forms and a playful use of color. He was fascinated by new technologies and experimented with sophisticated techniques like airbrushing and retouching in his early advertising work. With these novel methods, Bayer maximized the impact of his photomontages on the viewing public. He found the distinction between media limiting and worked across multiple fields in order to best communicate with his audiences: “I could no longer accept boundaries which are traditionally drawn between painting, sculpture, design and architecture. Exhibition design was discovered to be a new medium of communication, which […] embraces all possible media, all dimensions of space and includes oral-aural techniques.”

Examples of his work are featured in numerous public collections worldwide including Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo; the Getty Centre and LACMA, Los Angeles, as well as the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Surveys of Bayer’s photographs and graphic design have been held at the Denver Art Museum (2013), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1977), the University Art Museum, Santa Barbara (1969) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1949). 


Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography, Volume 1 Barr, N., ed., Warren, L., New York: Routledge, 2006. 105-106. Graphic Design in Germany: 1890-1945, Aynsley, J., Berkeley: University of California Press. 2000. 203