But the stream of images and ideas that has flown upwards from it has permeated and powered the dreams and work of many Londoners - Chaucer, Blake, Dickens, Lord Leighton, Beardsely, Eliot. I count some temporary residents amongst that lineage too - Carlyle, Walter Crane, Robert Calvert - even perhaps Syd Barrett for a couple of years before he fell. Unaccountably, one of the almost forgotten is Austin Osman Spare, the Kennington Blake. Like Blake, he was prolific, oscillated between grandiosity and despair and died in penurious obscurity. Why? Unfashionable, difficult, untruthful, yes. Mysterious, obsessive, inspired, definately. A friend for a while of Aleister Crowley, an inventor of his own religious system, a master draughtsman, a mystic, a loner, a fabulist, a war artist, social chronicler. One of the greatest mysteries about him is that he is has been so neglected.
It seems something is changing though - there is an exhibition of his work at The Cuming Museum not far from where he worked in Southwark. And in January, our friends the Strange Attractor Press are publishing "Austin Osman Spare: The Life and Legend of London's Lost Artist" by Phil Baker with a special limited edition. I imagine Spare would be glad of a growing posthumous fame - like Blake he seemed to fear and desire public acceptance. If you have the money and taste for art dealing, it is a good time to buy I think. If you haven't the money but have taste for dreaming,the book and the work is enough.
He was born in Clerkenwell on Snow Hill next to the river Fleet - the physical correalate of London's pyschedelic undercurrent.