Born in 1882 in Jönköping, Sweden, he grew up with two brothers and a sister, Anna, who died very early, at the age of 13, which badly effected John and his brothers and left visible marks in their minds for the rest of their lives. Their father used to own a charcuterie and the apartment they lived in was located above the shop.
He started sketching very early in his childhood, although there is no formal date known. In 1898, when young Bauer was 16, he moved to Stockholm to study art and two years later he started attending to the Royal Swedish Academy of Art.
The Academy was also a place where he met his future wife, Esther Ellquist, who later became his model in many of his paintings and illustrations. After they got married in 1906, they set off for Italy and Germany in 1908. It took two years before they returned.
In 1916, a son of Esthel and John was born and named Bengt. But this didn't change much in John's situation - the world was at a hopeless war, his marriage was slowly falling apart and Bauer himself suffered from self-doubts and depression, which was obviously caused in a huge part by the mentioned problems.
However, Bauer made attempts to save his family and his life. He bought a new house in Stockholm and in November 1918 John and his family were on their way there. A bit earlier this year, in October, all the Sweden was in mourn after a terrible train accident (it was the worst train accident in Sweden ever, killing at least 42 people, of whom many was burned alive after they survived the crash itself). Keeping that in mind, they planned to get to Stockholm on a ferry, the Per Brahe
On the 20th of November 1918, Per Brahe
had an accident. John Bauer, his wife and their son - none of them survived.
Paintings and illustrations
As I've said before, John Bauer's illustrations were an inspiration for many later creators, out of which the most famous one was Arthur Rackham. And Bauer himself was in his earliest paintings strongly inspired by works of Albert Engström and Carl Larsson. His depictions of trolls are often said to be a cannon visualisation of these legendary creatures and are easily connected with Scandinavian folklore.
He used to illustrate a yearly fairy-tale book, Bland tomtar och troll
, thanks to which he became famous in 1907 and his most popular artworks were those published in 1912-1915.
It is quite obvious that Bauer had a finely defined style, easy to recognise after you meet one. His works often have something darker hidden underneath, the presented situations are often set in gloomy surroundings, but at the same time they usually contain a brighter, more positive detail.
He's one of the most famous representants of the Golden Age of Illustration.
Some other interesting facts
His works were mostly square or almost square.
He was mentioned in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman
His illustrations are used as covers of Mortiis ambient albums.
Some private schools in Sweden name their classes after his characters.