Austin Osman Spare: British Propaganda Artist

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Austin Osman Spare, the son of a policeman, was born London on the 30th December, 1886. He left elementary school at 13 but had some formal tuition at the Lambeth School of Art and the Royal College of Art and before exhibiting at the Royal Academy at the age of sixteen. In July 1914 he had his first one-man exhibition at the Bailie Gallery.

Early in 1918 the government decided that a senior government figure should take over responsibility for propaganda. On 4th March, Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of the Daily Express, was made Minister of Information. Beaverbrook decided to rapidly expand the number of artists in France. Over the next few months the artists sent abroad included Austin Spare. Most of his paintings such as Operating in a Regimental Aid Post and First Field Dressing featured the work of the Royal Army Medical Corps. 

From October 1922 to July 1924 Spare edited, jointly with Clifford Bax, the quarterly, Golden Hind for the publishers, Chapman and Hall. It collapsed for lack of support, but during its brief career it reproduced impressive figure drawing and lithographs by Spare and others. In 1925 Spare, Alan Odle, John Austen, and Harry Clarke showed together at the St. George's Gallery, and in 1930 at the Godfrey Philips Galleries.

Spare worked from a small flat in Brixton, London. During the Second World War, Spare was seriously injured during a bombing raid. He lost the use of his arms but was able to return to work in 1946. The following year, 163 of the pictures appeared at the Archer Gallery, in Westbourne Grove. Austin Osman Spare died in London on 15th May, 1956.



Operating in a Regimental Aid Post 


First Field Dressing