Auguste Baud-Bovy (Genève 1848-1899 Davos) Portrait of the spanish writer Alejandro Sawa (1862-1909)

After his apprenticeship to Barthélémy Menn between 1863 and 1868, Auguste Baud married Jules Bovy's daughter, assigning her name to his. For about a decade he painted portraits and still-lifes, while teaching at local Academys. His interest on social-realistic theme's was displaced by the mountainscapes of the valley of Tourtemagne. Baud-Bovy was inspired by Gustave Courbet and exhibited for the first time in France in 1875. After travelling to Spain in 1880-1881, Baud-Bovy moved to Paris where he met Auguste Rodin and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. During the summer of 1885, while staying in Bundalp, Bern at the foot of the mountain Blümlisalp, he decided to leave Paris and settle in Aeschi. Galerie Durand-Ruel exhibited his work in 1896.

Although Baud-Bovy is known as a landscapist, he also made portraits of the literary, political and artistic circle who visited him frequently in Switzerland. The present portrait of Alejandro Sawa (March 1892, Paris) stylistically closely resembles that of the Symbolist author Charles Morice (1861-1919), who was portrayed by Baud-Bovy as well. Morice on his turn translated Sawa's roman "Crimen Legal" into French. Both portraits show a painstakinkgly attenttion to the faces and their facial expressions, leaving the rest of the body drawn with sketchy outline contours for maximum optical tension.

Born in Sevilla in 1848, Sawa studied Law in Granada. He moved to Madrid in 1885 and wrote his first novels, inspired by Zola's Naturalism (la Mujer de todo el Mundo (1885), Crimen Legal (1886) and Criadero de Curas (1888)). Paris with her seductive artistic scene, avant-gardistic climate and literary enviroment appealed strongly to Sawa and he settled in the metropole in 1889 where he works for the publisher Garnier. This enabled him to get into contact with Symbolist and Parnassian writers like Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine. With Verlaine, who suffered from social and physical decline, Sawa had a close friendship until his death in 1896.

His happiest years were during his marriage with Jeanne Poirier, with whom he had a daughter Elena in 1892. Sawa returned to madrid in 1896 where he was active as a journalist publisher for several newspapers. Due to his bohémien lifestyle the last years of his life were dominated by poverty and sickness. As he had become blind, he dictated his last words as a diary to his wife, which was published postume titled "illuminaciones en la Sombra" (1910). 

The friendship between Sawa and Baud-Bovy is expressed by his letters adressed to his wife and the French letters he wrote to Baud-Bovy, preserved in the Library of Genève.


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