|The story of Frank P. Sauerwein (1871-1910) is one of great artistic promise and terrible pain. He died at 39 years old after a long struggle with tuberculosis, but it was his affliction that lead him to discover his true creative calling.
Sauerwein was born in Cantonville, New Jersey and raised in Philadelphia. His father Charles D. Sauerwein (1839-1918), an artist who trained in Europe, was his first teacher. Sauerwein continued his studies at the Philadelphia School of Industrial Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Philadelphia Museum School of Art. He graduated in 1888, despite his crippling tuberculosis.
In 1891, Sauerwein moved to Denver, Colorado in hopes of alleviating his syptoms. The region's dry climate worked wonders, allowing the artist to explore the open spaces of his new home.
An 1893 visit to Colorado's Ute Reservation sparked Sauerwein's interest in the native cultures of the Desert Southwest. Over the next few years he frequently visited Arizona and New Mexico, befriending tribes and building a reputation for his tightly detailed depictions of Native American life.
Sauerwein traveled to Taos for the first time in 1899. Three years later he moved to California but continued to visit New Mexico in the summers. In 1906 he bought a house in Taos and befriended his neighbors Janet and Dr. T.P. Martin. Janet cared for Sauerwein as his condition worsened.
Near the end of his life, Sauerwein was unable to paint and decided to move to Stamford, Connecticut. He died there in 1910, and his ashes were scattered in Northeast Arizona's Painted Desert. He left his Taos home to the Martin family. Just five years later, the Martin home would be a key meeting place for the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists.
“Had he not died... he likely could have become the seventh founding member of the Taos Society of Artists," wrote Grauer, Harrison and Holmes in a biography of Sauerwein.
In an essay written the year after Sauerwein's death, Taos painter Bert Phillips poetically lamented his friend's passing. “Just as his hand and mind had reached their power and when his art gave forth the fruit long promised, Death took his brush and palette from his hand. Now his ashes are blown by the winds that sweep the deep recesses of nature’s masterpiece of sculpture and color – the Grand Canyon of the Colorado,” wrote Phillips.
Throughout his career, the artist signed his paintings 'Sauerwen,' although the correct spelling is 'Sauerwein.'