Nightmare Paintings, Aleister Crowley

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Introducing Crowley

Studying the occult without stumbling on Crowley is almost impossible.
He left a distinguished mark on spirituality and the occult as we experience it today.
Even if many don’t realize by far, his spiritual legacy is all around.
Words are somewhat insufficient to introduce to you this self called greatest magician of the 20th century. Let me quote the quote Stephen J. King used in his article contribution in Nightmare Paintings :

Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley

“Crowley was many things and excellent at most :
a record-setting mountaineer,
a competition-level chess player, the best metrical poet of his generation
in the estimation of some,a literary critic of international reputation,
an innovative publisher, editor and book designer,
a pioneer in the use of entheogens,
and a lion of sexual liberation- he was above all a lover, of men, women,
gods,goddesses and himself…
the key to his appeal was (and is) that he was fun as he was smart.
In truth his only satanic feature was his pride, in which was admittedly
of Miltonian proportions.”

The Nightmare Paintings at Buratti Fine Art

A you tube video about the opening night of an exhibition with artwork by Crowley at Buratti Fine Art caught my eye and I decided to buy the catalogue that was
(incl. shipment from Australia to Belgium) very reasonably  priced.
It took a month to get the book delivered, but the waiting was worthwhile and the catalogue surpassed my expectations.

Works from the Palermo Collection

The catalogue contains pictures of paintings made during his stay at Céfalu. Here he founded his Abbey of Thelema on April 1, 1920.
He stayed (interrupted by periods abroad) there until 1923 when he was asked by Benito Mussolini’s government to leave Italy.
During this period he created paintings of which several survived and became known as the Palermo Collection.

Many times the paintings shown in the catalogue are accompanied by diary fragments of Crowley about his creative occupations at that period. They make the painting come alive, something Crowley would appreciate. He defined magick  as “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”. His ideas about art were pretty much the same. In fact for Crowley art and magick were one.

” The Artist is a creative genius; that is, he is the nature of Godhead which devised the Soul as a medium for self-realization. Also, as History assures us, the Artist is of the cast of the initiated rulers of Mankind; he understands the theory of the Universe, he is an Epopt of the Mysteries of Nature, and an Hierophant of the Inviolable Sanctuary.”

Tarot Painting/Studie The Moon, by Aleister Crowley from the Palermo Collection
The Moon, by Aleister Crowley
Tarot Painting/Studie, 1921

More than paintings

This is not a catalogue to glance at, it is much more that!
Six essays elevate this catalogue to a reference book about Crowley (as an artist).

  1.  The Origins of the Palermo Collection
    by Giuseppe Di Liberti
  2. Aleister Crowley’s Paintings and the Palermo Collection
    by Marco Pasi
  3. The Shock of the New : Crowley’s Artistic Paris 1902
    by Robert Buratti
  4. Caves of Sorcerers : The American Beginnings of Crowley’s Art
    by William Breeze
  5. The Shadow of the Thelemites: The Abbot, the Abbey and the Nightmare
    by Stephen J. King
  6. Making an Exhibition of Himself : Aleister Crowley in Berlin 1930-1932
    by Tobias Churton

They are all what you can expect of well written essays. To the point, balanced and clear.
A joy to read for everybody with a little knowledge of the life of Crowley and with interest in his person
A source of background information: you just want to read more about Crowley after you have read the essays.
The book is stuffed with all kinds of information, e.g. I found out that he was an admirer of  August Rodin and the Belgian artist  Félicien Rops. Two artists I admire as well.
I’ve read all essays only once, and I need to do it again and take more notes. I will compare the three tarot studies in the book, with the paintings by Frieda Harris and write blog entries about them.

For more information on this subject I would like to refer to the blog by Peregrin Wildoak : Magic of the Ordinary, especially his interview with Robert Buratti.

I hope you enjoyed reading my first blog in English.

The Sun by Aleister Crowley Tarot studie and self portrait
The Sun by Aleister Crowley
Tarot studie and self portrait , 1920

Love is the Law, Love under Will.

You can read another blog article in English of my hand : Between Light and Darkness

Tarot Cirkel

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