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Austin Osman Spare: The Life and Legend of London’s Lost Artist

4.35  ·  Rating Details ·  139 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
Fascinated with mysticism and spiritualism from an early age, Austin Spare practiced automatic drawing before the Surrealists and developed a unique system of magic. This biography charts the rise and fall and rise again of British art's darkest star.
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 1st 2010 by Strange Attractor
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Jess M
Jul 18, 2014 Jess M rated it it was ok
AOS is such an enigma

Two years before the publication of the work, I had the opportunity to ask one of the leading authorities on Austin Osman Spare if he thought there would ever be a definitive biography of AOS . " I hope there never will be " was his passionate response. I was surprised and somewhat confused. How could a man who dedicated so much his life to research and proliferation of this amazing artist's life and work hold such an opinion. Years later when I enthusiastically dove into th
Dec 15, 2014 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Little is known about enigmatic artist Austin Osman Spare, and Phil Baker does an excellent job sorting through myth and reality in this biography. An unenviable task in some ways, Baker goes out of his way to point out inconsistencies and half-truths in the lore surrounding Spare, much of it propagated by the artist himself. The resulting portrait is incomplete by necessity though still manages to give the reader a sense of Spare and the obsessions that drew him down a rabbit hole of ...more
Apr 21, 2012 Astral rated it it was amazing
Indispensable book for any serious student of A.O.S.. Baker shakes the dirt off the long dead master magician /artist and reveals a very human Spare. I seriously could not put this down.
Sep 22, 2016 Min rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Austin Osman Spare's name is one that is bandied about heavily in certain magical circles. His Book of Pleasure, and his method of sigil making are often the first recommendations when branching out into more experimental paths. Outside of these references, I knew nothing about his quiet genius.
I hadn't even seen any of his art, other than his sigil workings.
I appreciate the author's confession that "[b]iography can only follow its subject so far, especially a character like Spare, whose real
Mar 16, 2012 Phil rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Efforts to rescue Austin Osman Spare from obscurity have proceeded apace over the last decade or so. There’s been a plethora of exhibitions, catalogues and books devoted to the analysis of his art and contributions to contemporary occultism. Phil Baker’s new biography fills a welcome gap in the development of “Spare Studies” by shedding some welcome light not only on Spare the artist and occultist, but on his life and the social milieu of his age. Strange Attractor have produced a marvellous ...more
Ben Dutton
Jan 31, 2013 Ben Dutton rated it it was amazing
Austin Osman Spare was nothing more than a dim name in my knowledge of twentieth century art. After reading Phil Baker’s magisterial history of his life, ‘Austin Osman Spare: The Life and Legend of London’s Lost Artist’, it is hard not to think that Spare should be a burning light in the history of the medium.

Spare was born in London in 1886, to a working class family in Snow Hill, close to Smithfield Market. During his early years he developed an interest in art, but also in theosophy and more
Nov 19, 2012 Bert rated it it was amazing
Artist, occultist, Cockney visionary and total mental, Austin Spare is the kind of man you really want to read about in a book. Phil Baker beautifully conjures up a lost Dickensian London of poverty, meat markets, pub pianists and men bartering goldfish for old clothes, and the rise of spiritualism, witchcraft, Freud, Crowley... Spare's life itself reads like gothic fiction, full of bizarre visions, epic randiness, conjuring ("I desire a large-bottomed woman for social congress") and barely ...more
Derek Fenner
Sep 09, 2011 Derek Fenner rated it really liked it
Shelves: esoteric
Publicity nor fame fit Austin Osman Spare (AOS). Baker does a fantastic job at giving readers the broad sweeps of AOS, with just enough in the notes and bibliography to provide a hearty research base for beginners and adepts. For AOS it was about the unconscious and the self and his working(s) with automatic methods began well before Breton and the surrealists utilized them. Baker gets it right in aspects of art, in the social fabric of life in London during two wars, and in AOS' relationship ...more
David Mcangus
Feb 23, 2012 David Mcangus rated it really liked it
A surprisingly detailed biography of one of the most important English occultists and artists of the early twentieth century. Baker manages to draw on many of the characters Spare flirted with throughout his time and gives a fair, if somewhat cynical view at times of their eccentricities.
The book itself is beautifully put together and constantly reminded me of the joy of reading physical books. Highly recommended and makes a good companion piece to Richard Kaczynsk's biography of Aleister Crowl
Jul 17, 2011 Gary rated it really liked it
Shelves: esoteric, art
Engaging examination of the life, artwork and times of a unique and uncompromising artist. Includes examples of Spare's artwork throughout his career, with some particularly striking color portraits. Provides intriguing glimpses into the characters, circumstances, and creative forces in Spare's life.
May 22, 2016 Selene rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed every aspect about this sad but beautiful artist. The book is written with little bias but a lot of enthusiasm. Definitely worth it to try and get inside the many layers of Spare's mind.
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“The meat market itself was probably a greater influence on Spare than his first school. It offered a spectacle of thousands of animal carcasses, which arrived under the market by a specially built railway before being displayed and disposed of at ground level.” 0 likes
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