(Saint-Gilles 1889 - 1927 Algiers)
Signed and dated middle right 19 WS 18/ Walter Sauer
Pencil on waxed paper
17 3/8 x 14 ¼ inches (42 x 34 cm)
Walter Sauer’s career as a professional artist fundamentally began in 1917 when he signed a contract with the art dealer and gallerist Isy Brachot. The agreement was loosely based on a patronage system in which Sauer pledged to produce several works on a monthly basis in exchange for a salary. Brachot was extremely demanding, and the arrangement led Sauer to exhibit as many as one hundred drawings per exhibition. This was no easy task for a fragile man who suffered from severe lung problems his entire life.
In 1917 Sauer met Mathilde Dressen at a party, a beautiful woman who thereafter became his model, mistress, and in January of 1918 his wife. Shortly after their union she began to exhibit symptoms of psychological afflictions that would likely be diagnosed today as manic depression or bipolar disorder. Mathilde was repeatedly hospitalized, and the stress of the situation clearly affected Sauer’s work at the time. Due to the extensive amount of time he spent with his ailing wife and his deep desire to understand her state of mind, the artist worked to capture emotional turmoil in his figure drawings. This devastating time in Sauer’s life resulted in his uncanny ability to portray the psychology of his sitters.
In Languissant Sauer precisely captures the sitter’s mental state of helplessness and abandonment in her physical presence. Partially covered by a falling garment or bedsheet, she appears sad yet simultaneously contemplative, as if disappointed or regretful. She slouches over, her heavy head held up by her fingertips, her posture broken but not entirely closed off to the viewer. She is vulnerable, naked and alone, yet in her exchange with the artist she holds the power. She has a secret and is in a psychological state that Sauer wishes to reveal through his drawing. Perhaps she requires comforting, an embrace, or an explanation. As the viewer we adopt her emotional state, searching our own experiences to pursue the empathy that will allow us to understand hers.