Self Portrait1936 by Austin Osman Spare

Word and Graph: Self re. Hitler

Pastel and charcoal; signed with initials and dated 1948, inscribed 'Extract;/ Written to A. Hilter [sic] after invitation to paint his portrait 1936./ "When I look at you... whether the retch out all kinship or close my eyes and so accept a more/ abstract value, a reverse side - I know not! Only from negations can I wholesomely conceive/ you... for I know no courage sufficient to stomach your spirations and ultimates. If you/ are superman - let me be forever animal..."/ 'Self Portrait restoration - partly destroyed 1941. Original in Germany formerly owned by Hitler./ Austin O Spare 1948.'

This drawing appears to be the only extant version of this famous self portrait, and is the re-worked original of the one sold to a German diplomat in London in 1936 and given to Hitler as a birthday present, now lost. The squaring visible in the background indicates that this drawing was used as a study for another. The inscription is typical of Spare's ranting, solipsistic prose, described by his biographer as 'paroxysmal', but in essence it is quite true - Hitler was so impressed by the self portrait that he sent a telegram to commission Spare to paint his portrait, and Spare did indeed write to him to turn the commission down. His obituaries made sure that he is now remembered as 'the man who refused Hitler'.

21.5 x 12.75 inches
Provenance: Hannen Swaffer

Exhibited: Temple Bar, 1949, no. 8

Literature: Austin Osman Spare: Dearest Vera, Vera Wainwright. 12, il.
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