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Austin Osman Spare 30 December — 15 May was an English zzos and occultist   who worked as both a draughtsman and a painter. Influenced by symbolism and zks nouveau his art was known for its clear use of line,  and its depiction of monstrous and sexual imagery.
Born into a working-class family in Snow Hill in London, Spare grew up in Smithfield and then Kenningtontaking an early interest in art. Developing his own personal occult philosophy, he authored a series of occult grimoires zzos, namely Earth InfernoThe Book of Pleasure and The Focus of Life Alongside a antahema of personal exhibitions, he also achieved much press attention for being the youngest entrant at the Royal Academy summer exhibition.
After publishing two short-lived art magazines, Form and The Golden Hindduring the First World War he was conscripted into the armed forces and worked as an official war artist. Moving to various working class areas of South London over the following decades, Spare lived in poverty, but continued exhibiting his work to varying success. With the arrival of surrealism onto the London art scene during the s, critics and the press once more took an interest in his work, seeing it as an early precursor to surrealist imagery.
Losing his home during the Blitzhe fell into relative obscurity following the Second World Waralthough he continued exhibiting till his death in Spare’s spiritualist legacy was largely maintained by his friend, the Thelemite author Kenneth Grant in the latter part of the 20th century, and his beliefs regarding sigils provided a key influence on the chaos magic movement and Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth.
Spare’s art once more began to receive attention in the s, due to a renewed interest in art nouveau in Britain, with several retrospective exhibitions being held in London.
Various books have been written about Spare and his art by the likes of Robert Ansell and Phil Baker Together they moved into a tenement called Bloomfield House on Bloomfield Place, King Street in Snow Hillwhich was inhabited by the families of police officers, drivers, clerks and market workers.
The couple’s fourth surviving child, Austin Osman Spare was born shortly after four o’clock on the morning of 30 December Sepulchre’s Churchat the top of Snow Hilland each day he would pass by Smithfield anahhema marketwhich being an animal lover, he detested.
Here, Spare attended St. Agnes School, attached to a prominent High Anglican church, and as a child he was brought up within the Anglican denomination of Christianity. Patterson claimed to be a descended from a line of Salem witches that Cotton Mather had qnathema to extirpate.
InSpare left St. Agnes School and gained employment at Sir Joseph Causton and Sons, a company that focused on the design of posters.
Not wanting the commitment of anaghema apprenticeship, after nine months he quit this job and instead began working as a designer at Powell’s glass-working business in Whitefriars Street, which had links to the Arts and Crafts movement and William Morris. In the evenings he attended the Lambeth School of Art.
Anathema of Zos : The Sermon to the Hypocrites, an Automatic Writing
Louis Exposition and the Paris International Exhibitionand in he won a silver medal at the National Competition of Schools of Art, where the judges, who included Walter Crane and Byam Shawpraised his “remarkable sense of colour and great vigour of conception. Soon, he began studying at the RCA, but was dissatisfied with the teaching he received zox, becoming a truant and being disciplined by his tutors as a result. Rejecting Christianity and developing an interest in western esotericismhe read several books on Theosophy by Madame Blavatskynamely Isis Unveiledand wanting to explore the topic further, he also read the works of prominent occultists Cornelius Agrippa and Eliphas Levi.
Self-published by Spare through the Co-Operative Printing Society, copies of Earth Inferno were purchased by Pankhurst and other friends from the college. Here, his paintings illustrated many of the themes that would continue to inspire him throughout his life, including his mystical views about Zos and Kia. Journalists from the British press took a particular interest in his work, highlighting the fact that, at seventeen years of age, he was the youngest artist in the exhibition, with some erroneously claiming that he was the youngest artist to ever exhibit at the show.
Watts allegedly stated that “Young Spare has already done enough to justify his fame”, while Augustus John was quoted as remarking that his draughtsmanship was “unsurpassed” and John Singer Sargent apparently thought that Anathemz was a “genius” who was the greatest draughtsman in England.
One alleged that he aspired to eventually become the President of the Royal Academy itself, something he would quickly deny.
Having left higher education, Spare became employed as a bookplate designer and illustrator, with his first book commission being for Ethel Rolt Wheeler ‘s Behind the Veilpublished by the company David Nutt in The volume contained a number of self-portraits; anxthema also filled many of the images with illustrations of bric-a-bracof which he was a great collector.
The book was finished off with an introduction authored by Scottish painter James Guthrie. His later biographer Phil Baker would later characterise it as “a remarkable work of Edwardian black-and-white art” which was “far more confidently drawn and better finished than the work of the Satyrs “.
Attracting widespread interest and sensational views in the press, he was widely compared to Aubrey Beardsley, with reviewers commenting on what they saw as the eccentric and grotesque nature of his work.
The World commented that “his inventive faculty is stupendous and terrifying in its creative flow of impossible horrors”, while The Observer noted that “Mr. Spare’s art is abnormal, unhealthy, wildly fantastic and unintelligible”.
Austin Osman Spare
One of those attracted to Spare’s work was Aleister Crowley —an occultist who had founded the religion of Thelema intaking as its basis Crowley’s The Book of the Law. Crowley introduced himself to Spare, becoming a patron and champion of his art, which he proclaimed to be a message from the Divine.
Spare subsequently submitted several drawings for publication in Crowley’s Thelemite journal, The Equinoxreceiving payment in the form of an expensive ritual robe. On one occasion, Spare met a middle-aged woman named Mrs Shaw in a pub in Mayfair.
Eager to marry off her daughter, who already had one child from an earlier relationship, Mrs Shaw soon introduced Spare to her child, Eily Gertrude Shaw Spare fell in love, producing a number of portraits of Eily, before marrying her on 4 September There are differing accounts as to where the wedding took place, with Spare claiming that it occurred in St George’s, Hanover Squarealthough later biographer Phil Baker suggested that it might instead have been at St George’s Register Office.
At the wedding, Spare choked on his wedding cakesomething his bride thought hilarious. Here, they became neighbours to Spare’s old friend Sylvia Pankhurstwith Spare also befriending several local Jewsreading works of Jewish literature such as the Zohar and The Song of Solomon in order to impress them.
Russell, in which his illustrations once more displayed his interest in the abnormal and the grotesque. The Psychology of Ecstasywhich he self-published in Exploring his own mystical ideas regarding the human being and their unconscious mind, it also discussed magic and the use of sigils.
In a note included in the publication, Spare stated that there were still many sections of the book missing, including a proposed introduction written by Daniel Phaer, but that he hoped these would be included in a second edition; ultimately this would never come about.
At the same time, he was involved in a newly launched popular art magazine known as Colourwhich was edited in Victoria Street, submitting a number of contributions to its early issues. Envisioning his new venture, titled Formas a successor to The Yellow Bookhe was joined as co-editor by the etcher Frederick Carterwho used the pseudonym of Francis Marsden.
SquireRicketts and Shannon. Spare and Carter co-wrote an article discussing automatic writingarguing that it allowed the unconscious part of the mind to produce art, a theme that Spare had previously dealt with in The Book of Pleasure. Inwith the First World War still raging, the British government implemented the Military Service Act III, conscripting into the armed forces men who had previously been rejected on medical grounds.
As a result, Spare was forced to join the Royal Army Medical Corpsinitially being stationed at its depot in Blackpoolwhere he worked as a medical orderly, giving tetanus vaccine injections to British troops before they were sent abroad. At Blackpool, he was reprimanded for scruffiness, and complained that a part of his pay was being taken away for a “sports fund. Here, he was appointed to the position of Acting Staff-Sergeant, and given the task of illustrating the conflict along with other artists based in a studio at 76 Fulham Road.
Spare was demobilized in Following the victory of Britain and its allies, Spare had moved into a small flat at 8 Gilbert Place in BloomsburyCentral London, where he lived alone; although they never gained a divorceSpare had separated from his wife Eily, who had begun a relationship with another man.
Edited and introduced by Frederick Carter, the book once more dealt with Spare’s mystical ideas, continuing many of the themes explored in The Book of Pleasure. Fuller and Havelock Ellis. However, Spare discontinued the magazine after the third issue, which was published in January Spare had moved to South London, to a run-down council flat at 52 Becket House, Tabard Street in Southwarkdescribing his life there as that of “a swine, with swine.
The Sermon to the Hypocriteswhich served as a criticism of British society influenced by the ideas of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Spare would self-publish it in an edition of copies from his sister’s house in GoodmayesEssexin Spare biographer Phil Baker, Spare held exhibitions of his work at the St. George’s Gallery in Hanover Square inand then at the Lefevre Gallery inbut his work received little praise in the press or attention from the public.
Sandilands of the Royal College of Art. He proceeded to move to Lambeth for a while, and then in to Elephant and Castlea poverty-stricken working class area of South London, where he set up his home in the flat at 56a Walworth Road, situated above the loading bay of a Woolworth’s store. Surrealism took an interest in automatism and the unconscious, just like Spare’s work, and although he did not think highly of the surrealists, he was often described at the time as a British forerunner of the surrealist movement; indeed, the reporter Hubert Nicholson ran a story on him titled “Father of Surrealism — He’s a Cockney!
Spare would later claim that the German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler took an interest in his work after one of his portraits was purchased by the German embassy in London. According to this story, the accuracy of which has never been verifiedin Hitler requested that Spare travel to Berlin to produce a portrait of the Nazi leader, but that Spare refused, remarking that “If you are a superman, let me be forever animal.
His arms were also injured in the blast. At first taking up residence at the working men’s hostel in Walworth Road, he then moved into a sculptor’s studio in Spitalfields and finally the Brixton basement of his friend Ada Pain at 5 Wynne Road. Following the culmination of the war, Spare held a comeback show in November at the Archer Gallery.
A commercial success, the works on display showed the increasing influence of Spiritualism on his thought, and included a number of portraits of prominent Spiritualists like Arthur Conan Doyle and Kate Fox-Jencken. He also featured a number of portraits of famous movie stars in the exhibit, leading him to later gain the moniker of “the first British Pop Artist “.
In the spring ofa recently married woman named Steffi Grant introduced herself to Spare, having developed a fascination with what she read about him in the press. She introduced him to her husband Kenneth Grant —a former disciple of Aleister Crowley’s who was greatly interested in the occult. Spare and the Grants became great friends, frequenting a number of London pubs together and sharing books on the subject of the esoteric.
The Grants’ influence led Spare to begin writing several new occult manuscripts, the Logomachy of Zos and the Zoetic Grimoire of Zoswhich remained unpublished.
Interested in witchcraft, he was introduced to Gerald Gardnerthe founder of Gardnerian Wiccabut remained unconvinced that he offered anything of spiritual worth.
Anathema Of Zos Quotes (1 quote)
Notably, Grant claimed that Spare had been a member of the secretive Cult of Ku, a Chinese occult sect who met in Stockwell to worship a serpent goddess.
Spare held his first pub show at the Temple Bar in Walworth Road in latewhich again proved successful, earning Spare guineas.
The fifth issue, for August—Septembercontained an article on Spare and his work, while the sixth contained an article written by Algernon Blackwood that was illustrated by Spare. Many of these works were exhibited in the summer of at the Mansion House Tavern in Kenningtonand then at The White Bear pub in the autumn ofbut the latter proved to be a commercial failure. In he would write that he was fed up of exhibiting in pubs, wishing to return to selling his works from actual galleries.
A great fan of the wireless, he eagerly agreed, but was deeply upset by the result, which appeared on an episode titled “Unusual Beliefs”, believing that he had been ridiculed.
Rushing to see him at his hospital bed, it was here that Spare’s two dearest friends, Kenneth Grant and Frank Letchford, met one another for the first time.
Spare died on the afternoon of 15 Mayat the age of His funeral was paid for by his friend Hannen Swaffer, and he was buried alongside his father at St. Anathems Church in Ilford. Spare’s work is remarkable for its variety, including paintings, a vast number of drawings, work with pastel, a few etchings, published books combining text with imagery, and even bizarre bookplates.
He was productive from his earliest years until his death. According to Haydn Mackay, “rhythmic ornament grew from his hand seemingly without conscious effort. Spare was regarded as an artist of considerable talent and good prospects, but his zoss was apparently controversial. Critical reaction to his work in period ranged anzthema baffled but impressed, to patronizing and dismissive.