Saturday, October 29, 2005

Boy genius, borough satyr

When I was in my twenties, a friend introduced me to the writing of Austin Osman Spare, but as solo ceremonial magician rather than as a painter.

The friend was a bit older than I, and he lived modestly in a house he had inherited, had some sort of trust fund, and worked occasionally in the antiques field. Spare's work must have resonated more with him than with me, although he didn't live as "a swine among swine."

The Daily Telegraph (UK) covers the opening of an exhibition of Spare's paintings in London. (Registration required.) The article mentions Spare's initial high standing in the art world but also his interest in magic:

RIGHT: Spare's Portrait of a Woman

He was an outsider from the start. His mother recalled that he didn't play with other boys, preferring the company of a sorceress called Mrs Patterson, whom he described as his "witch mother". In 1904, aged 17, he was hailed by the press as a "boy genius" when his work was shown at the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition. Lionised by some of the foremost artists of his time--George Frederic Watts, Augustus John and John Singer Sargent--he received a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, where one contemporary described him as "a god-like figure of whom other students stood in awe, a fair creature like a Greek god, curly-headed, proud, self-willed, practising the black arts, taking drugs, disdainfully apart from the crowd".

The exhibit is tied to a new biography, Borough Satyr, from Fulgur Ltd..

Coincidentally, The Pomegranate will published a paper on Spare in our May 2006 issue if all goes well.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Chas,
Fulgur are selling a limited edition, 93 copies only, of 'Borough Satire' signed by Kenneth and Steffi Grant and quarter bound in morocco, for £120! I think I'll be opting for the rather more affordable softback edition. The book is certainly worthy of purchase if only for the colour reproductions. There doesn't seem to be a great deal of 'new' stuff on the text front but it will be nice to have all of the "classic recollections" in one place. The writer of The Telegraph article appears to have nicely imbibed the standard Grant line! Chris Miles

1:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, of course, that was meant to read, "Borough Satyr"...but then again, AOS was certainly not averse to a heavy dose of satire...

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I emailed the publisher about this book. At the time of writing, the special edition has completely sold out and the hardback 'standard edition' is 60% sold... although they apparently still have copies of the paperback. It seems anything on Spare is hotly sought-after...

6:56 PM  

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