Friend of the Great Beast (The Independent)

Friend of the Great Beast
Like Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare was obsessed with sex and magic. But unlike Crowley, he was also an accomplished artist.
By Adrian Gatton
The Independent
20 August 1999

The reputation of Austin Osman Spare, one of the oddest characters in 20th century British art, is being rehabilitated by a new exhibition in London’s Clerkenwell.

Spare was an accomplished draughtsman, a child prodigy and the youngest artist of his time to exhibit at the Royal Academy. He was also deeply interested in magic and became a friend – and then almost as inevitably an enemy – of Aleister Crowley, the notorious occult practitioner. Some of his most exquisite work was produced in trance states in pitch darkness.

In his life he was a Bohemian and after early success turned his back on fashionable London to pursue his art and magic in a Brixton basement. He even turned down the chance to become Hitler’s court painter …

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