Herbert Bayer (Austrian, born April 5, 1900–died September 30, 1985) was a well-known graphic designer, painter, and sculptor. He lived in Germany during his early life, and studied under Georg Schmidthammer in Linz. Bayer studied at the Weimar Bauhaus, a prominent art school, from 1921 to 1923. While there, he learned how to paint murals. Bayer was most recognized for his experiments in typography, which he discovered while studying at the Bauhaus.

The artist took inspiration from the Minimalist movement when creating his uppercase/lowercase single typeface, called the Universal Alphabet. At the time, it was never cast as a physical typeface, but it is distributed digitally today. Bayer taught layout, typography, and advertising at the Bauhaus from 1925 to 1928. Bayer set up operations in Berlin, where he lived and worked until 1938 as the manager of Vogue. He also worked as the Dorland advertising agency director. Bayer is well-known for his work in advertisement and his paintings of abstract natural forms. The inclusion of his art in the Nazi propaganda exhibition, Degenerate Art, and the repression of the Third Reich caused him to emigrate from Germany.

Some of Bayer's most representative works include Shadow on the Steps, Colorado, and Hands Act. Shadow on the Steps is a painting that focuses on abstract geometric shapes formed by shadows, as opposed to having any narrative content. True to the Minimalist style, Bayer preferred most of his works to be free of any narrative. Colorado is a mural that he worked on from 1948 to 1967, depicting the state's mountainous landscape. Hands Act, meanwhile, is an early photomontage created out of photographs of human hands and organized in a pattern. Bayer executed most of his early work in photomontage, but later focused on painting and sculpting. He used his knowledge of geometric shape integration to created aesthetically pleasing designs for contemporary advertisements. Although some of his critics may have thought of this as selling out, Bayer believed, due to his training at the Bauhaus, that all forms of artistic expression—painting, architecture, and sculpture—should exist together as one art form.

The artist died on September 30, 1985.


Born in Haag am Haustruck, Austria
Attended Bauhaus, Weimar, Germany; studied mural painting under Kandinsky
Emigrated to New York, NY
Died in Montecito, CA


From Type to Landscape, Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College (4 Museums) Hanover, NH
Photographic Works, ARCO Center for Visual Art (12 Museums) Los Angeles, CA
Das Druckgrafische Werk bis 1971, Haus Deutscher Ring (10 Museums) Hamburg, Germany
Fotografien. Fotomontagen. 1926-1937, Landesbildstelle Hamburg, Germany
Paintings, Architecture, Graphics, Stadtisches Kunstmuseum Duisberg
33 Jahres Seines Schaffens, Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nuremberg, Germany
The Way Beyond Art, Brown University Providence, RI
, Bauhaus Dessau, Germany


Bayer, Herbert. Herbert Bayer: Visual Communication Architecture Painting. New York, NY: Reinhold, Publishing, 1967
Bayer, Herbert, ed. World Geo-Graphic Atlas. Chicago, IL: Container Corporation of America, 1953
Chanzit, Gwen. From Bauhaus to Aspen: Herbert Bayer and Modernist Design in America. Boulder, CO: Johnson Books and the Denver Art Museum
Chanzit, Gwen. The Herbert Bayer Collection and Archive at the Denver Art Museum. Denver, CO: Denver Art Museum, 1980
Chanzit, Gwen, and Vanderlip, Dianne. The Herbert Bayer Archive Inaugural Exhibition. Denver, CO: Denver Art Museum, 1980
Cohen, Arthur Allen. Herbert Bayer: the complete work. Cambridge: MIT Press. 1984.
Dorner, Alexander. The Way Beyond “Art” – The Work of Herbert Bayer. New York, NY: Wittenborn, 1947
Gebhard, David. Herbert Bayer. Chicago, IL: Container Corporation of America, 1965
Herbert Bayer: A Total Concept. Denver, CO: Denver Art Museum, 1973
Herbert Bayer: Kunst und Design in amerika 1938-1985. Berlin: Bauhaus Archiv, 1986