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Austin Osman Spare ( 1886 - 1956 )  Category ( Artists ) [suggest a correction]
 

Austin Osman SpareAustin Osman Spare was an English artist known for his idiosyncratic style and techniques. His theories included artistic uses of automatic writing, drawing, and sigilization, which related to his theories on the relationship between the conscious and unconscious self. His work is noted for its skilled draftsmanship, use of the line, and for the frequent inclusion of monstrous or fantastical imagery.

He was born in London, the son of a policeman. He was the fourth of five children. According to his mother, Eliza Ann Adelaide Osman, Spare showed early promise: "All day long he would have a pencil in his hand, drawing anything that was placed before him." His mother acknowledged that his lessons and supplies were expensive, but that the family was determined that he should be allowed to follow his avocation. He was enrolled in art school at an early age, and by 14 he won a scholarship based on one of his drawings that was exhibited in the British Art Section for the Paris International Exhibition. Not long after this he dropped out of traditional school and won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art. It was here that he began his training in earnest. In October 1907 Spare had his first major exhibition. Held in London's West End, his works on show contained elements of the arcane and grotesque. This led to public controversy; however, it also gained the attention of London intellectuals. These new friendships led to further opportunities in the art world.

Spare married the actress and dancer Eily Gertrude Shaw in 1911. The marriage was short-lived, but never officially dissolved. Two years later he published The Book of Pleasure. This work is the most complete exposition of his esoteric ideas. In 1917 he was conscripted into the British Army, to fight in World War I. He first served as a medical orderly, but by 1919 he was commissioned as an official War Artist. Spare later claimed it was his war experiences that pushed him into the abstract world of art. "And there I have more or less remained," he remarked. By 1927, Spare was an open and harsh critic of contemporary society. His loathing was clearly articulated in his work Anathema of Zos -- Sermon to the Hypocrites, which was published in 1927. It was his last published book, and included the social admonition: "Dogs, devouring your own vomit! Cursed are ye all! Throwbacks, adulterers, sycophants, corpse devourers, pilferers and medicine swallowers! Think ye Heaven is an infirmary?"

Image: "Dressing the Wounded During a Gas Attack", one of Spare's images done while serving as a war artist.


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