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Possible new Crowley painting and correspondence  

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 Anonymous
Joined: 51 years ago
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29/07/2011 8:29 am  

I was corresponding a few days ago with a retired Canadian professor and editor, responding to an old blog page he'd written about the famous Crowley-Gurdjieff encounter of 1926. In reply the professor shared what he said was an original watercolor by Crowley, 'hitherto unknown'. He gave me permission to put the image up on my Crowley-Gurdjieff encounter webpage, which I did (it's about one quarter down the page):

http://www.ptmistlberger.com/why-remarkable-men-rarely-meet.php

I emailed the image to Richard Kaczynski, who replied that he had not seen it before. Richard sent it on to William Breeze, whose take on the picture I'm certainly curious to hear.

The professor in question also added that he had some correspondence of Crowley's that he had not looked at in decades. He's busy at the moment with a project but will reply with more info in a day or two.

The woman in the painting seems reminiscent of Leah Hirsig (same hair parting, at least), and the man possibly Cecil Russell, both of whom were present together at the Abbey in the early 1920s. But just a guess on my part.

If anyone here is familiar with both Crowley's art, and art in general, would be interested to hear your take on the painting.


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the_real_simon_iff
(@the_real_simon_iff)
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29/07/2011 8:34 am  

93!

It certainly looks authentic (maybe too authentic, but what do I know?) - and fantastic too! Great colors. My guess is that it depicts two women, Leah Hirsig is a good guess. Wasn't Nienette Shumway a blonde?

Thanks for sharing

Love=Law
Lutz


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 Anonymous
Joined: 51 years ago
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29/07/2011 9:07 am  

Lutz -- interesting idea about the person on the right being a woman. According to Richard Kaczynski's Perdurabo, Ninette Shumway was 5 ft 2, with gray eyes and brown hair (p. 356). The figure in the painting has sea-green eyes, and is obviously depicted as much bigger than the other person.

The main thing about the photo of Russell that doesn't match up with the figure in the painting was Russell's high forehead.

I have of course wondered about the authenticity of the painting, but style is not so easy to replicate, far as I know. The signature does seem a bit different from AC's written sig, but this one was painted with a brush, which could account for that.


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the_real_simon_iff
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29/07/2011 9:24 am  

P.T., 93

Another possibility might be Jane Wolfe. Anyway, a great painting and somebody will surely solve the mystery, maybe it is hidden in the correspondence possessed by your Canadian contact.

Love=Law
Lutz


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 Anonymous
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29/07/2011 9:30 am  

Lutz, I think you nailed it. Jane Wolfe looks like a very strong likeness.


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einDoppelganger
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29/07/2011 9:45 am  

Wow, what an exciting development! Things like this are what makes this site so great. I do truly hope this turns out to be real. It certainly looks authentic. What wonderful colors! I am equally excited by the correspondence. Perhaps we will be lucky and they wont disappear into someones private collection...


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 Anonymous
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29/07/2011 10:04 am  

If you compare the image of Jane Wolfe, especially as seen on this page here...

http://www.cornelius93.com/ClerkHouseAAgeneaology.html

...with the image of the person on the right in the painting, the similarity is striking. Considering that Leah and Jane were together with AC at the Abbey, this may increase the likelihood that the painting is authentic.


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OKontrair
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29/07/2011 10:21 am  

This image very closely resembles item 25 in Crowley's New York exhibition - "The Ladies at the Liberal Club" a monochrome photo of which is at the Harry Ransom Center. It resembles it too closely to be another version of the same subject. I'll send a copy to the galleries.

On that, I believe contemporary, photograph the signature has been overpainted - whereas it is present on the recent colour photo.

Converting the colour photo to mono seems to yield different tonal values than the HRC version.

These are just observations though, my impression (without seeing either except on screen) is that it is 'not impossibly' genuine.

OK


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 Anonymous
Joined: 51 years ago
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29/07/2011 10:48 am  

Appreciate the critical appraisal. Clearly, the picture is going to need critical appraisal. My personal main suspicion about it is the signature -- it may be authentic, but it seems almost a bit too 'obvious'.

That said, the Harry Ransom photo may simply be a photo of this original painting. The apparently different tonal values may be due to the quality of the camera that took that photo, as contrasted to any modern tools you're using.


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 Anonymous
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29/07/2011 10:55 am  

By far the most horrible painting I have EVER seen.

Definitely Crowley I'd say.


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 Anonymous
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29/07/2011 11:32 am  

Pretty hard to deny the similarities with Jane Wolfe, especially the nose and mouth.


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the_real_simon_iff
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29/07/2011 11:42 am  

93!

OK, you have the perfect memory!

I made a little compare jpeg. From left to right: The newly found version, the photographic print from the New York Collection at the Harry Ransom Center, both overlaid and a striped cutout. It seems to me they are identical (I have an original photographic print here and it is not as bright as the scan of it), just a little tilted because of the photographic angles.

This would mean it is not Jane Wolfe and it is not from Cefalu.

Still a fascinating find.

Love=Law
Lutz


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 Anonymous
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29/07/2011 11:46 am  

Fascinating work, Lutz (and acknowledgements to OK). This would mean that the painting is indeed legitimate, even if presented before in monochrome photo. Seems the original has been found.

Eerie resemblance to Hirsig and Wolfe.


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the_real_simon_iff
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29/07/2011 11:51 am  

93!

I see you had the same idea. Alas, if it is the original from the New York Collection, AC hadn't met Jane Wolfe then (this was in 1918 I believe). He first saw her (to his initial disappointment aesthetically) in Cefalu years later.

Love=Law
Lutz


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 Anonymous
Joined: 51 years ago
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29/07/2011 11:58 am  

Yes, he met Jane in 1920.

My main interest now is in the legitimacy -- I wonder if there's a way to determine if this is the original painting, or someone's clever paint-over of the monochrome photo? The owner of the painting is a renowned collector, and so I imagine it's possible that someone pulled a fast one on him. He said that he's owned it for years, however, and AC wasn't quite so popular long ago as now.


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 Anonymous
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29/07/2011 4:24 pm  

Wow! I see there have been some really exciting developments while I was asleep! Its news like this that I'm sure Paul dreamed of appearing on this site when he began it!


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stanforda
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29/07/2011 6:36 pm  

Thank you Mahakala77. This really is an exciting find, and in my opinion it looks very authentic.

I'd be interested to hear what Breeze has to say about it. Be sure to let us know if, and when you recieve a reply.


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 Anonymous
Joined: 51 years ago
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29/07/2011 8:51 pm  

Seems the painting may indeed be legit. Perhaps the weakest link, the signature, is, according to William Breeze, in a style 'typical for Crowley's early work, prior to developing his monogram signature'.

Relevant parts of email below, copied here with permission.

***

I have an early photograph of the painting. Once I locate the file here I will check to see if it has a caption by Crowley (i.e. to the photo) -- he wrote very amusing captions to many of the paintings in that collection.

The painting dates from late 1917 or 1918. The Liberal Club on MacDougal Street naively agreed to allow Crowley to show his art in their upper room -- they made him dismount the show. Not too liberal after all. The signature is typical for Crowley's early works -- before he had developed his monogram signature.

The subjects would be two members of the club -- I can identify the board members easily enough, and there were some moneyed uptown ladies who supported it financially, but the subjects might equally be regular members. The club had rooms above Polly Halliday's restaurant in the Village -- famous for its anarchist waiter Hippolyte Havel, who served the food while snarling that the patrons were capitalist pigs.

I am naturally interested in its provenance -- so few of what is known as the "New York Collection" of paintings have survived; there were hundreds.

Best wishes

William Breeze

***

At this point, we're just waiting for more info from the owner.


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OKontrair
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29/07/2011 10:51 pm  

I've been looking at this quite closely and like it more and more. There are a lot of recognisable brush stroke common to both and no variations that could not probably be due to artefacts of the repeated photo process. (the HRC pictures are of prints of photos of the paintings, the white area with Crowley's titles and numbers are the borders of those prints)

"Mahakala77" wrote:
At this point, we're just waiting for more info from the owner.

The size would be a very interesting thing to know. The colour version is shorter than the B/W one - the top is not displayed. Maybe the image was cropped for the internet or perhaps the painting itself has been trimmed sometime in the past.

One remaining anomaly is the signature - I don't mean the authenticity - on the B/W version it has been obliterated but is clear on the later colour version. Depending how it was blotted out of course; one might have expected signs of restoration especially on a watercolour.

I have found what I think is the Crowley caption referred to by the eminent Mr.Breeze. It is:

"Mrs. Tyler says it is a wonderful portrait of Mrs. White and Mrs. White says it is a wonderful portrait of Mrs. Tyler."

OK


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 Anonymous
Joined: 51 years ago
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29/07/2011 11:10 pm  

Thanks for that OK. I'll try to get the info about the size. Tyler and White? So much for Hirsig and Wolfe.

Not to get too far off on a tangent, but found this interesting and funny piece, re the Liberal Club.

***

137 MacDougal St. Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Vachel Lindsay, Louis Untermeyer, Max Eastman, Theodore Dreiser, Lincoln Steffens, and Sinclair Lewis hashed over life theories at the Liberal Club, "A Meeting Place for Those Interested in New Ideas," founded in 1913 on the second floor of the house that once stood here. Margaret Sanger lectured the club on birth control, an on-premises organization called Heterodoxy worked to promote feminist causes, and cubist art was displayed on the walls.

Downstairs were Polly's Restaurant (run by anarchist Polly Holladay and Hippolyte Havel) and the radical Washington Square Book Shop, from which Liberal Club members more often borrowed than bought. Holladay, a staunch anarchist, refused to join even the Liberal Club, which, however bohemian, was still an "organization." The apoplectic Havel, who was on the editorial board of The Masses, once shouted out at a meeting where fellow members were debating which literary contributions to accept: "Bourgeois pigs! Voting! Voting on poetry! Poetry is something from the soul! You can't vote on poetry!" When Floyd Dell pointed out to Havel that he had once made editorial selections for the radical magazine Mother Earth, Havel shot back, "Yes, but we didn't abide by the results!" Hugo Kalmar, a character in O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, is purportedly based on Havel. This was alo the meeting place of Heterodoxy, which Mabel Dodge described as a club for "unorthodox women, women who did things and did them openly." In a previous incarnation, this building was the home of Nathaniel Currier (of Currier and Ives).

http://www.travel-studies.com/content/greenwich-village-literary-guide

Crowley's painting would have been shown in the room directly above this restaurant. I think the waiter shown is the apoplectic anarchist himself (similar to his Wiki image):


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 Anonymous
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30/07/2011 8:34 pm  

This morning received a fascinating email from the owner of the painting.

The bare details:

1. He first saw the painting in 1955 in the home of a Canadian investment dealer.

2. It was an untitled watercolor painted on heavy grey card, 20 inches high, 14 inches wide, blank on the back.

3. The investment dealer was unusual for the area/time in that he had a large library of occult books, many of them 'rare'. Part of this collection included manuscript material and substantial correspondence with Karl Germer and Manley P. Hall. He had connections with the Theosophical Society of that time. He led a small and informal group of young occult enthusiasts, of which the owner was an occasional participant in at the time.

4. The man's library was inherited by his son. In 1989 the son donated the collection of rare occult books to a university library.

5. Included in this collection was a group of 'manuscripts and correspondence' that the chief librarian rejected, describing them as 'the ravings of a madman'. Among these were 'four heavy cartons of unpublished material', which included 'at least two letters and a watercolor' by a certain Aleister Crowley. (It's unclear if the 'madman' was in reference to AC's letters and painting, but it is possible, even likely. Presumably the cartons also included the Germer and Hall correspondence).

6. In 1989, the son who had donated the books to the library wanted to be relieved of the 'bulky cartons' (which included the 'madman's ravings') and delivered them to the current owner, reasoning that he was the sole surviving member of his father's original circle of occult students from the 1950s.

7. The current owner has had the cartons stashed away since then.

***

He's intending to provide more information shortly.


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OKontrair
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30/07/2011 9:24 pm  

Wonderful news. If the proportions are 20 x 14 then that is the same proportion as the image section of the HRC print. So the internet image has been cropped and not the actual picture trimmed.

OK


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 Anonymous
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01/08/2011 2:51 pm  

the woman to the left looks to me to be Nanette.


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the_real_simon_iff
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01/08/2011 3:03 pm  
"OKontrair" wrote:
One remaining anomaly is the signature - I don't mean the authenticity - on the B/W version it has been obliterated but is clear on the later colour version. Depending how it was blotted out of course; one might have expected signs of restoration especially on a watercolour.

93!

OK, if you take a look at other watercolors from the NY Collection, his signature has been erased quite a few times. I wonder why. From my inspection (as far as this is possible with the little pic) it seems that what is left of the erased signature matches exactly the one on the unerased color pic. Maybe it has been erased on the photoprints or negatives?

Love=Law
Lutz


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 Anonymous
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01/08/2011 8:36 pm  

It's not Ninette Shumway (or Jane Wolfe). As OK mentioned, the caption refers to a Mrs. White and Tyler.

A certain specialist has examined the signature; I gather that the blurry part underneath may have been astrological dating, and from this was determined the picture was painted in either late May or June of 1918. (There was a reference to 'Sun in Gemini').

Crowley met Shumway in early 1920 and Jane Wolfe a few months later. He did however meet Leah Hirsig in the spring of 1918, which makes it natural to speculate on the figure in the painting with dark hair. According to Kaczynski, however, Leah was not a short woman; she was a slender 5 ft. 8 (p. 338 of Perdurabo). The woman in the painting seems diminutive, at least in comparison to the one beside her.

The rubbed out signature is interesting; one can only imagine it had something to do with AC's reputation. It reminds me of that funny tale relayed by Suster in The Legacy of the Beast, where he reported that a Hastings bookseller, shortly before Crowley's death, had seen a 'magical symbol' drawn by AC on one of the buildings of his boarding house. The bookseller didn't like the symbol and so wiped it off with a dish-cloth. The next day, AC died. Suster then jokingly remarked that 'now we at last know the truth -- the Beast was rubbed out by a dish-cloth'.

The owner of the painting has yet to follow up with any more info. At this point I'm unsure if there will in fact be any more info, or who will be privy to it if there is. The owner is busy finishing a book project.

Regardless, it's a fascinating painting, and William Breeze has confirmed it as authentic as far as I know.


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 Anonymous
Joined: 51 years ago
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02/08/2011 2:50 am  

And as an amusing coincidence that I forgot to mention in my last post, this painting has come to public light exactly 93 years after its creation (according to the specialist who dated it). The reason this is amusing/interesting, apart from the numeric coincidence, is that there is a belief commonly found in trance-medium communities that spirits from the 'Otherside' typically communicate via numerical coincidences. In this connection it helps to remember that Crowley himself was involved heavily in trance-mediumship of many kinds, and often these involved his women (Rose Kelly-Aiwass, Mary Desti-Abuldiz, Roddie Minor-Amalantrah/LAM, etc.). And here we have a painting surfacing 93 years later featuring two women.


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 Anonymous
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02/08/2011 4:12 am  

On a lighter note, maybe its William Seabrook and his wife Marjorie in the painting 🙂


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manofwycombe
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02/08/2011 7:42 am  

On a completely non-serious note - maybe the individual on the right of the portrairt is Dot-Marie Jones, in her role as Coach Shannon Beiste in Glee?


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 Anonymous
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02/08/2011 9:35 am  

“Big lusty, restless, red-haired William Buehler Seabrook" so his description reads, pictured here we can compare the curious cleft chins noted in both images:

While our runner-up: Dot-Marie Jones, as Coach Beiste can be viewed here:


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 Anonymous
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02/08/2011 9:47 am  

And let's not forget Marjorie and the dark circles under the eyes:


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OKontrair
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02/08/2011 10:36 am  

I no longer have any reservations about this picture - although to authenticate a potentially valuable picture on digital evidence alone seems to be a dangerous precedent - but I now regard it as non suspicious.

The tonal mismatch between versions when the coloured one is made mono is, I think, due to the nature of real black-and-white photography. Red light has no effect on silver nitrate so red objects stay white on the negative and come out black on the print. For example the pink collar on the figure on the left.

I also have a new theory about the signature. The images on the HRC prints are of glazed pictures (because in some of them the glass is cracked). As Lutz notes, blotted out signatures are on a number of the NY collection prints as are exhibition numbers. Some of the numbers appear twice in the prints, once on the white border of the print and once on the image area. My conjecture is that the number on the image is actually on the glass. If the signature obliteration was also on the glass it would disappear if the glass was removed or replaced.

OK


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 Anonymous
Joined: 51 years ago
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02/08/2011 10:44 pm  

It's always interesting to reflect on the matter of perception as it relates to art. Van Gogh couldn't sell anything while he lived, a century later his works are worth millions. The old adage 'a prophet is never recognized in his home town' (words alleged to have been spoken by Christ himself) extends naturally to 'a genius is rarely recognized in his own time'. This of course does not always apply, but there's little question that the passage of time often increases how we value a thing.

That said, I personally find AC's artwork interesting, and even if I didn't know who the artist was, I suspect I'd still find it interesting. However it's difficult to completely separate someone from their works, even more so with non-realist art. A thing that stands out for me with his artwork is the intensity, especially as it relates to the eyes of his subjects. Doubtless Crowley was an intense individual, of a very high energy level, and I think this reflects in his portraits.


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einDoppelganger
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02/08/2011 10:50 pm  
"Mahakala77" wrote:
Doubtless Crowley was an intense individual, of a very high energy level, and I think this reflects in his portraits.

I see his reverence for Gauguin in his painting (and his lifestyle). Personally, I find little compelling in Gauguin, while I find a sick brand of intensity in Crowley's art. Crowley's paintings strike me as feverish and somewhat diseased. I mean that in the best possible way.


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 Anonymous
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15/08/2011 8:24 am  

After receiving permission from the owner of the Crowley watercolor discussed in this thread, I put together an essay based on the painting and related musings, which includes the full identities of the various owners of the painting through the decades.

Scroll down past the short articles on Gurdjieff and Osho.

http://www.ptmistlberger.com/lore-of-the-magi.php

(Essay is followed by a humor piece, 'Crowley on Canada').


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 Anonymous
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15/08/2011 12:52 pm  

A fantastic blog, Mahakala77. The essays on Osho and Dee's libraries were very interesting for me and I was delighted to find this fabulous Crowley self-portrait, which I'd not previously seen (or forgotten about if I had) ?timestamp=1313300493533 . Thanks!


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 Anonymous
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15/08/2011 1:18 pm  
"Noctifer" wrote:
A fantastic blog, Mahakala77. The essays on Osho and Dee's libraries were very interesting for me and I was delighted to find this fabulous Crowley self-portrait, which I'd not previously seen (or forgotten about if I had) ?timestamp=1313300493533 . Thanks!

That one was presented here before:

http://www.lashtal.com/nuke/Article1068.phtml

However here's a questionable item:

~


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einDoppelganger
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15/08/2011 1:42 pm  

Thanks for the image 666TSAEB, I hadn't seen that before. Why is it questionable? It looks like a Crowley to me. Do you have some background on it?

Cheers
S


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OKontrair
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15/08/2011 1:42 pm  
"Noctifer" wrote:
A fantastic blog, Mahakala77.

I completely agree, I found it very informative and interesting.

I notice though that there is now a third variant of the title 'Ladies of the Liberty Club'. Is there a source for this or maybe it's a slip of the pen? Quite a few of AC's paintings have multiple titles, sometimes legit and sometimes not. Chief culprit John Symonds, followed by Gerald Yorke and mainly I suppose AC's difficult handwriting.

Is there any possibility that we could see the top - featureless I know - few inches of the new painting?

regards,

OK


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michaelclarke18
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15/08/2011 2:38 pm  

After receiving permission from the owner of the Crowley watercolor discussed in this thread, I put together an essay based on the painting and related musings, which includes the full identities of the various owners of the painting through the decades.

Scroll down past the short articles on Gurdjieff and Osho.

http://www.ptmistlberger.com/lore-of-the-magi.php

Really nice blog, although the AC painting comes off really badly when juxtaposed with the Van Gogh & Rembrandt.

However here's a questionable item:

Now that is interesting....it looks like an 'Identi-Kit' Crowley, in that it contains every possible element you would expect to see in a Crowley painting....and from a number of different periods within his painting career. I'm not saying it is fraudulent, but looks like it needs further study.

Does anyone know who owns this painting?


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 Anonymous
Joined: 51 years ago
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15/08/2011 11:01 pm  

Thank you Noctifer, OKontrair, and Michael. Though I must say, had even more fun writing the 'Crowley on Canada' piece below.

"OKontrair" wrote:
I notice though that there is now a third variant of the title 'Ladies of the Liberty Club'. Is there a source for this or maybe it's a slip of the pen?

That was indeed a slip. Has been amended to the correct 'Liberal Club'.


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lashtal
(@lashtal)
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15/08/2011 11:08 pm  
"Mahakala77" wrote:
more fun writing the 'Crowley on Canada' piece below.

Wonderful! The Crowley-the-Mounty image is striking…

Owner and Editor
LAShTAL


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 Anonymous
Joined: 51 years ago
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16/08/2011 8:45 pm  

fascinating article Mahakala. I was interested to hear about the watercolours he did before Sep 1918. Are there any more details or images of watercolours Crowley did, before and after this date?

And what would a Crowley pic fetch on today's market if one were to come up? Does anyone know of the prices they have fetched over the last few years?


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 Anonymous
Joined: 51 years ago
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17/08/2011 12:43 pm  
"666TSAEB" wrote:
"Noctifer" wrote:
A fantastic blog, Mahakala77. The essays on Osho and Dee's libraries were very interesting for me and I was delighted to find this fabulous Crowley self-portrait, which I'd not previously seen (or forgotten about if I had) ?timestamp=1313300493533 . Thanks!

That one was presented here before:

http://www.lashtal.com/nuke/Article1068.phtml

Thanks for this, I hadn't seen it. Nice hi-res version!


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 Anonymous
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17/08/2011 9:00 pm  
"HW" wrote:
fascinating article Mahakala. I was interested to hear about the watercolours he did before Sep 1918. Are there any more details or images of watercolours Crowley did, before and after this date?

I don't know, and in any case, I wouldn't be the right person to ask. I put the essay together only because of a number of converging issues that were of interest to me.

And what would a Crowley pic fetch on today's market if one were to come up? Does anyone know of the prices they have fetched over the last few years?

I suspect not stratospheric numbers, but if any ever did, would probably be gobbled up by one of the rock stars who covet his work (and could afford the splurge).

Crowley was no great artist, but as we all know, half the power of art lies in the name. And in that regard, there's little accounting for taste. This painting here is the most expensive sold to date:

http://understandingpaintings.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/no-5-1948-jackson-pollock-worlds-most-expensive-painting/

What is interesting, however, is the point in history during which artists began to identify themselves, and the cultural changes that brought that about. Possibly the finest sculpture, or even work of art, ever made (in my humble opinion), was by an anonymous Egyptian craftsman:


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einDoppelganger
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17/08/2011 9:19 pm  
"Mahakala77" wrote:
And in that regard, there's little accounting for taste. This painting here is the most expensive sold to date:

My training is in classical realism but we did have to do extensive study of modernity and post-modern art theory. That being said I can appreciate a Pollack but this is my favorite Norman Rockwell 🙂

You can just hear the old guy sniggering behind his artboard 🙂


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amadan-De
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18/08/2011 12:16 am  

O/T
Re: that Pollock painting - some years ago I saw an animation* of the painting's developmental sequence (the order in which the 'drips' were put on the canvas) gave a fascinating insight into it and his method. Lot more intention than there appears at first glance (or even third). Love to see the film again.

*possibly on the Open University, and if not No.5 it was a substantially similar picture by Pollock using the same palette 🙂


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