(Saint-Gilles 1889 - 1927 Algiers)


Study for Woman from the Borinage

Bears artist’s posthumous seal lower right

Collage and pencil on paper

17 ¾ x 15 inches (45 x 38 cm)



Massant, Michel, Walter Sauer 1889-1927, Bern’Art, 2001, p. 37.


The current work on paper is a study for Walter Sauer’s arresting 1923 portrait Woman from the Borinage. This drawing provides integral insight into the artist’s process, revealing a free and loose approach to his preliminary sessions in comparison to his highly finished waxed drawings. Unlike the finalized version, this sketch shows the sitter in an upright position with her fingers placed pensively on her lip. The composition is vertical as opposed to horizontal, her mouth is not agape, nor is her posture collapsed, However, the identity of the absinthe drinker is unmistakably the same emaciated woman draped in a garment that no longer fits her. Ever fascinated by the female psychology, Sauer caught his model in a moment of introspection but ultimately chose to depict her in the finished version with a despondent daze, a victim drinking to forget her terrible circumstances.

This drawing had evidently been folded numerous times before it was later collaged onto a second sheet. It is unclear if Sauer himself cut out the silhouette of the sitter, but it is by no means an impossibility. In Woman from the Borinage the artist applied silver leaf to the background of the same sheet, however he was also known to achieve a similar effect by pasting finished drawings down to a second gilded sheet. This alternative method may have been his initial intention though it was not the outcome. The original drawing is stamped with a posthumous seal from the Galerie L’Ecuyer in Brussels, which held a Walter Sauer exhibition between November 1974 and January 1975 during which efforts were made to authenticate the artist’s works.