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Borough Satyr: The Life And Art of Austin…

Borough Satyr: The Life And Art of Austin Osman Spare

by Robert Ansell

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If Spare was an "all or nothing" type in life (1886-1956), so are the books of him. Frankly, either the cheap toilet-paper editions of I-H-O Books or the exclusive and expensive books of Fulgur – the former with pixelised lineart and grey, blurry rectangles vaguely hinting about some pencil piece (although the typography in itself is quite pleasant) wrapped in a front cover consisting of some (again) pixelised, zoomed in photo – and the latter, Fulgur, with pristine reproductions if one can afford them. In fact, I wouldn't say I can, but somehow I've acquired most of them (from both publishers to be honest), which may or may not have something to do with the fact that I don't buy clothes, rarely go to the pub and eat little.

However, Fulgur's editions are so lovingly prepared and with such attention for reproduction and fine paper t
hat it seems a long time ago when I'd look at the price tag. It has to be said that "Borough Satyr" would have done with a bit more careful proofing, but that's a typo or two in an otherwise fine volume.

It's a delightful book, although less urgent than "Images And Oracles of Austin Osman Spare" (Grant) or "Zos Speaks!" (Grant) which focus more on the philosophical side of Spare's character, as well as being profusely illustrated of course.

"Borough Satyr" isn't a definite biography, being a collection of essays based on Spare in between the half or full page reproductions, and even out of these articles, the best one is incidentally Steffi Grant's introduction from the above mentioned "Zos Speaks!"

Grace E. Rogers's "Symbology and Aesthetics in Relation to the Work of Austin Osman Spare" (1925) is basically page up and page down of pointless art theory which takes a list of very long adjectives and imaginative sentences to arrive at no
thing really. I much cherish the reproduced newspaper articles (the earliest from 1904 and 1909) which give fascinating glimpses towards his youth, although being just that, glimpses. The articles by Clifford Bax and Hannen Swaffer draw portraits from different angles. Kenneth Grant's "Appreciation" from 1955 is of course insightful, him being one of Spare's closest friends, but again Grant later elaborated the subject of this article on "Images And Oracles" where Spare's magic is discussed in full detail and in its own right – not as an essay for an art catalogue like the "Appreciation" was.

Nevertheless a truly enjoyable book, the landscapte 4to format (240mm x 295mm) allowing the artwork to fully spread out when relevant. Which is most of the time. (Copy No. 189 of 961.)
  ketolus | Aug 7, 2017 |
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