Self portrait, 1899

         John on the lake Bunn outside
          Björkudden, Sweden 

        Jönköpings City Park
, Sweden 


in Jönköping, Sweden. He studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of
Fine Arts from 1900 to 1905, and married his classmate Ester Ellqvist
in 1906. Their son Bengt, whom they nicknamed Putte, was born in 1915.
The forests of Småland, medieval German towns, Sami life and culture,
and fourteenth century Italian painting were of great significance to his
artistic evolution. His unique style was inspired by the Neo-Renaissance movement. 

John Bauer and his family died in 1919, when the passenger boat Per
Brahe sank on Lake Vättern. They were traveling from Gränna to Stock-
holm to move to a new house in Djursholm. Everyone on board perished.
John Bauer was just 36 years old. By that point, he had left the fairytale
world behind and was seeking new artistic avenues. John Bauer and
his family are buried at Östra Cemetery in Jönköping, Sweden.                            

Already as a child, John Bauer saw the world in little pictures. As a 4-
year-old, he asked his mother to close her eyes so that she could see
all of the beauty he saw. He could not be without pen and paper. John’s
brother Hjalmar—my father—who was eight years older, also loved to
draw and paint. When he was 9, John visited Hjalmar in Stockholm one
weekend. Their father, Josef Bauer, was a butcher. As the eldest son,
Hjalmar was following in his father's footsteps and practicing in
Stockholm at the time. In a letter to Hjalmar written in September 1891,
their mother Emma wrote that John spoke endlessly of everything he
had done in Stockholm. The one thing that bothered him was that he did
not get to visit the National Museum. Hjalmar must promise that when
he comes home for Christmas, he will tell John about everything there
is to see there. John was imaginative, and as a child he wrote several
fairytale plays that he and his friends acted out. They played circus too,
and had many performances. He proudly wrote to Hjalmar that Circus
Baulander had 20 acts and 3 dumbshows. In attendance were 39
people, and they made 4 kronor at the box office.
John was not terribly interested in school. His textbooks were full of
caricatures of friends, teachers, and well-known people from Jönköping.
His only desire was to enter the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in
Stockholm. He applied three times. The first two attempts, he was
considered too young, but when he was 18 in the year 1900, the Academy accepted him. The first year, John was studious and interested. The
second year, he became obstinate and lazy. He found the program
overly tedious. He wanted to follow his own path and immerse himself
in the things that interested him. He had a conflict with Gustaf
Cederström, one of the leading artists at the Academy, and he wanted
to quit. Gustaf Cederström anticipated his move, and he wrote to Josef
Bauer, emphasizing the impressive talent of Josef’s son, but that it was
necessary to learn the basics in order to be a great artist. And so it
was, and John spent the years 1900-1905 at the Academy.
John was uncertain about many things, except his desire to be an artist.
He vacillated between optimism and depression. He periodically felt that
he was not living up to the demands placed on him. He rarely revealed
his innermost thoughts, and many people therefore perceived him as
lazy. He enjoyed the company of good friends; he worked and created,
and he rarely talked about art, nor let himself be influenced. Letters
reveal John’s struggle for self-fulfillment, and how he oscillated
between hope and despair.

John and Ester in Italy, 1908

Many of the letters between John Bauer and Ester Ellqvist, whom he
married in 1906, have been preserved. The letters are filled with love,
hope and sadness. They each wrote of their experiences of nature,
John in his beloved forests, and Ester by her beloved sea. Their
relationship worsened in the final years, but in 1918 they were
planning to move into their newly built villa on Djursholm and try to
find a solution together.
In the midst of their dreams of a new life, and as new progress in art
was becoming a reality, tragedy struck on Lake Vättern. The passenger
boat Per Brahe sank. John and his family were on their way to Stockholm
from Gränna. Everyone aboard drowned. Four years later, they managed
to salvage the boat, and the family could be buried. A monument to
John Bauer was erected in Stadsparken in Jönköping after a collection
went all over the country. A memorial was also placed by the grave in
the Östra Kyrkogården cemetery. The inscription begins, “Friends and
admirers of John Bauer’s art laid this stone in 1931”.