Austin Osman Spare
Pictures of the Occult by a Psychical Artist
12th March 1927
Steeped in mysticism and the study of ancient magic, Mr Austin O. Spare, once hailed as an infant prodigy, whose work was hung at the Royal Academy when he was only fourteen years of age, is now holding an exhibition at the St. George's Gallery, George Street, Hanover Square. His work is comparable in its nightmare conception with Dore and in its delicacy to the later manner of Aubrey Beardsley: but although he deals with his subjects from an allegorical point of view, he has neither the brutality of the great illustrator of the Bible, nor the bitter cynicism of the decadent. To his mind, filled as it is with the lore of religions, almost now forgotten, the Borough, where he dwells in penury, is peopled with the beings of the woodland of ancient Greece, the Satyr band attendant on the great god Pan. These beings, whose name has become a synonym for lust, live, maintains Spare, in their horned horror in the drab streets south of London Bridge. The ribaldry and coarse revelry of the slums is due to the influence of these beings of the Borderland, he believes and he has materialised them on his canvases. Some of his work is executed with the faëry lightness of silverpoint while other examples are in colour. Certain pictures, such as the "Dream Phantasmagoria" reproduced above, were directly inspired by spirit control, perhaps the first automatic artistry that is the work of one who is both an automatist and an artist. Too many spirit drawings in the past lacked the technique that renders at least semi-intelligible to the non-elect work of Mr. Spare. The artist believes that much great work Hamlet for example was created under psychical impulse, and even when not "automatising," he ascribes a spirit direction to his brush. Mr. Spare, who served through four years of the War, is the son of a City policeman and is a skilled worker in stained glass. He utilises self-hypnotism on occasion to stimulate his production and to direct his work, but his hand has been uninspired for as long as three months at a time. Despite the easy criticism that such work is the outcome of a brain possibly affected by the character of his studies, possibly transcending that of the average, the innate beauty of Mr. Spare's art sets this exhibition on a level of its own.
"The Arrow of Life" : A Picture Drawn to Illustrate the Thesis that even the Most Bestial Contains a Spark of Godhead.
"The Fallen" : A Nightmare Allegory is in the Pessimistic Manner which sometimes characterises the Work of Mr. A. O. Spare.
"Dream-Phantasmagoria" : An Example of Mr. Spare's Spirit-controlled Automatic Artistry.
Two Studies of Satyrs, Mythical Beings of the Borderland Between Brute and Human, Conceived by Mr. Spare to Dwell in the Borough, South of London Bridge, where he Himself Lives.