Walter Spindler 

Walter Spindler 

Biography of Walter Spindler  ( 1878-1940 )

"To my dear little Walter Spindler, on whom I count to carry my features to posterity" Sarah Bernardt 1908

Son of William Spindler, a German who had made his fortune in the chemical industry, Walter was born in France but grew up on the Isle of Wight, where the wealthy industrialist had settled in 1881, in the Undercliff area. The industrialist tried to develop St Lawrence into a seaside resort to rival Ventnor, leaving a legacy of Victorian houses and the remains of the Binnel Bay seawall. A somewhat boorish man, he lives in relative isolation, but young Walter, with his passion for theater and art, is appreciated by all.

Little is known about Walter Spindler's training and career. Coming from a very wealthy background, he was probably never obliged to sell his work, and inherited the family empire on his father's death in 1889. Nevertheless, he exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1892, 1893, 1894 and 1896, and contributed to the illustration of numerous books and poems. These included "The Gods, Some Motals & Lord Wickenham" by John Oliver Hobbes, under whose name Pearl Craigie (1867 - 1906) was published in 1895, Oscar Wilde, Lord Alfred Douglas and the French poet Jean Lorrain.

Walter Spindler is very close to Pearl Craigie, a writer 11 years his senior. Also living in Wight, she is the daughter of wealthy American entrepreneur John Morgan Richards. Walter Spindler played an active role in decorating her sumptuous villa, known as Craigie Lodge. Educated between Paris, Boston and London, she mastered the piano, French, Latin and Greek. She had already achieved several literary successes by the early 1890s. Walter and Pearl shared a common attraction to literature and the arts. They enjoyed a tumultuous relationship for many years. Their marriage was announced in the Aberdeen Press and Journal in February 1897, but never actually took place, as Pearl's constant professional demands took their toll on her frail health, and she died suddenly of heart failure in 1906.

Walter Spindler's other great muse was Sarah Bernhardt (1844 - 1923), whom he met when the actress came to stay at Old Park house to rest. He frequently portrayed her, at home or in her greatest roles, and many of his drawings and watercolors were not sold until after her death. Louise Abbéma owns a portrait of her friend Sarah by Spindler, unveiled in 1895 to an English journalist visiting her Paris studio. At the actress's request, Spindler illustrated her memoirs, published under the title "My Double Life" in 1907, earning her the affectionate dedication "À mon cher petit Walter Spindler sur qui je compte pour porter mes traits à la posterérité" written on the painter's copy.

It was again after a design by Spindler that Sarah Bernhardt had Lalique create the 500 silver medallions that were unveiled in 1896 to celebrate her thirty-year career. The original work belonged to her friend, the poet Jean Lorrain, who was also associated with Spindler.
The Sarah Bernhardt exhibition at the Petit Palais in 2023 featured a pastel on loan from the Musée Jules Chéret in Nice, whose composition is almost identical to our painting.

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