Hauser was hospitalised at the age of seventeen because of psychiatric problems, having never learned to write or count.
In 1947 he was transferred to the hospital at Gugging in his native Austria, where he was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia. At first he was given farm work and later was encouraged to draw by the psychiatrist Dr Leo Navratil, founder of the famous Artists' House at Gugging. Physically separated from the main hospital buildings, the Artists' House provided Hauser and the other artist-patients with a space in which to live and work according to their own creative desires, and unhindered by therapeutic imperatives. The result has been the emergence of an astonishing number of important outsider artists with international reputations, including August Walla, Oswald Tschirtner and Johann Garber, although Hauser is the most celebrated.
He typically drew with coloured pencils and much of his imagery is manifestly sexual in content. This image of a saint exemplifies the generally hieratic and simplified nature of his imagery, as well as the tendency to produce saturated areas of strong colour. According to Navratil, Hauser's drawings changed according to his mental state. In manic phases he would produce large, vibrant and more complex images, whilst his depressive state would bring darker images, tending towards the abstract-geometric. .