UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW

The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

return to surnames beginning with 'S'

George Sauter, 1866-1937

Nationality: German?
Date of Birth: 1866.04.20
Place of Birth: Rettenbach
Date of Death: 1937
Place of Death:

Identity:

George Sauter was an artist. He was born in Germany but settled in London.

Life:

Georg Sauter began his study of art at the Royal Academy in Munich. Having found the capital restrictive, he undertook further periods of study across Europe, working in Holland, Belgium France and Italy, before moving to London at the close of 1889. He married Lilian Galsworthy, gaining access to a smart set of artists and men of letters- including Whistler and Joseph Pennell with whom he enjoyed close friendships- as well as G. F. Watts, Hubert Herkomer, James Guthrie, Joseph Conrad, and also Laurence Binyon and Campbell Dodgson, curators of the British Museum. He painted portraits and landscapes, working largely in oil on canvas, and also produced lithographs. He was most closely associated with Whistler in the 1890s, particularly in the context of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, acting as Honorary Secretary during Whistler's Presidency from 1898-1903, while also contributing critical articles.

Like Whistler, Sauter was no stranger to scandal and when his 1902 work The Bridal Morning was shown in 1909 at the 13th Annual Carnegie Art Institute Exhibition in Pittsburgh, it caused a public outcry in a similar vein to that of Manet's E. Manet, Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe(z334) or Whistler's Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl (YMSM 38). The painting depicts a standing female nude from behind, illuminated by a brilliant morning light. Despite winning the prestigious silver prize from the jury the New York American reported that 29,000 protesters were in uproar over the perceived erotic content of the painting and the Director of the Institute James Beatty was inundated with letters demanding its removal. The American Examiner ran a two-page spread entitled 'Too Horrid for Pittsburgh'. Sauter described The Bridal Morning as 'a symbolical picture', but the work itself betrays a host of influences: the subject is Whistlerian, the rapid brushstrokes, treatment and play of light are broadly Impressionistic, while the 'symbolical' qualities are suggestive of the Pre-Raphaelites and Sauter's own high regard for Piero della Francesca.

Sauter responded swiftly to the protests, stating in a letter to the Director: 'the picture simply embodies a thought or idea in form and color'-similar to Whistler's defence of the White Girl: 'My painting simply represents a girl dressed in white standing in front of a white curtain.'(Letter to editor of The Athenaeum, 1 July 1862, #13149).

Sauter and Whistler shared feelings of amibivalence towards Britain, torn between their old and new home countries. This came to a decisive break with the advent of World War I; having never become a fully naturalised British citizen, Sauter was interned in December of 1915. In spite of protests and petitions from his circle of friends, he was repatriated to Germany in early 1917. He finally made a home in the mountains of St Margarethen in the Lungau in 1933. After his death, Sir John Lavery wrote to Valda Sauter, praising Sauter as someone who "did more to spread a knowledge of what was best in art than any man of his time" (21 August 1938).

Bibliography:

Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres Sculpteurs Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Boime, Albert, 'Georg Sauter and the Bridal Morning', American Art Journal, vol. 2, no. 2, New York, 1970; Who was who: a companion to Who's who, London, 1920 et seq; Who was who: a cumulated index, 1897-1990, London, 1991; Walkley, Giles, Artists' houses in London 1764-1914, Aldershot, 1994.