Walter Sauer - Reclining nude


Brussels’ draughtsman, painter and etcher who gradually started making more etchings and drawings because of health reasons.



Studies at the Brusselse Academie voor Schone Kunsten (Brussels Academy of Fine Arts), mainly in the decorative class with Constant Montald. Large dimension works will become a lifelong fascination. Japonism (a fondness for Eastern art and culture) is also an important source of inspiration.


He makes a long journey through France and Italy, partly thanks to a grant from Stichting Karel Buls (Karel Buls Foundation). Other study trips abroad enhance his hunger for pictures.


Takes part in the (last) yearly salon of the Brussels’ art circle La Libre Esthétique, a breeding pot of artistic talent.

His poor health leads to Sauer gradually focuses more on drawing. An important subject matter is the (female) nude. He does however remain active as a decorative painter.

On the technical front Sauer is also innovative. To accentuate the ivory skin of the model, the artist brushes his sheet with bees wax. Gold and silver plate sometimes form a frame around his drawings.


Sauer establishes an international reputation as a decorative artist in the twenties. He represents Belgium at the Exposition internationale des Arts Décoratifs (International Exhibition of Decorative Arts) in Paris, which lends its name to the Art Deco.


When he receives the commission to decorate a Byzantine room with scenes from the life of Christ, Sauer travels to Spain and Algeria for inspiration. He dies there unexpectedly at the age of 38.


In a review of a posthumous tribute in the Brussels Cercle Artistique et Littéraire originally from March 1928, art critic Karel van de Woestijne claims that Walter Sauer was not a first rate artist but that he ‘represents something special’ as Félicien Rops’ disciple – ‘Art which was half a century behind and which, despite a certain grace, was unable to captivate and was not formally solid enough to survive’. From Fernand Khnopff, the English symbolists and Gustave Moreau, Sauer learnt ‘het schrale der lijn en het valschvoorname van den inhoud’. Or how a critical review can also be a tribute…