Born in Cantonville, New Jersey, Frank Sauerwine was raised in Philadelphia and had his first art lessons from his European trained father, Charles Sauerwine (1839-1918). He studied 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 from where he graduated in 1888. He later moved to Colorado, and in 1893 accompanied illustrator Charles Craig on a trip to the Ute Reservation of Southwestern Colorado. From that time he roamed the Southwest for painting subjects, although he based himself in California. He grew to love Arizona and often stayed on the Navajo Reservation. He became a close friend of Lorenzo Hubbell, well-known trading post operator at Ganado, and spent much time at Keam's Canyon where he made many sketches of the Navajo and Hopi Indians. Rendered in a tight, academic style, Sauerwine's paintings clearly show the influence of German romanticism. They are set apart, however, by their hand, clear light which is true to conditions in the American Southwest and very different from the heavy, atmospheric representations of the east coast and Europe. Also unlike the earlier romantics, most of his paintings are in very small format.
In 1902, Sauerwine traveled to Taos, New Mexico, providing illustrations of U.S. Hollister's 1903 book, "The Navajo and His Blanket." He spent most of his summers in the Southwest, traveling to the Grand Canyon, Acoma, Laguna, Albuquerque and Taos. In 1911, Taos painter Bert Phillips wrote an essay on the Taos Art Colony and authored these words about Sauerwine: "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."