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Gavotte, 1947, Oil on Canvas
Hilla von Rebay (German, 1890 – 1967)

Hilla von Rebay was an artist, collector, and a co-founder of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Born Baroness Hilla Rebay von Ehrenwiesen in Strassburg, Germany, in 1890, Rebay studied art at the Cologne Kunstgewerbeschule and the Académie Julian in Paris, where she developed her skills in figure and portrait painting. She later studied in Munich, Berlin, and Zurich, where she first came in contact with modern art. In the 1910s, Rebay began creating non-objective works, including both paintings and collages that consisted of colorful combinations of shapes, and she exhibited these pieces throughout Europe. In 1927, Rebay moved to New York City, where she was hired to paint a portrait of Solomon R. Guggenheim. While she worked on his portrait, Rebay and Guggenheim became friends and she introduced Guggenheim to the concept of non-objective painting. Rebay also believed in the spiritual and transformative power of non-objective art, and she encouraged Guggenheim to start collecting. Within a few years, Rebay began working with him to facilitate purchases from artists such as Marc Chagall, Robert Delaunay, Wassily Kandinsky, and many others. Her idea for a museum, or a "temple of non-objectivity," was finally fully realized in 1939 when the Museum of Non-Objective Painting—later renamed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum—opened in Manhattan. Rebay was the museum’s first curator.