Dark Spirits

Dark Spirits

Artist and occult luminary Rosaleen Norton died in Sydney on this day in 1979. Today also marks the publication of Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare, which pairs Norton with the English artist whose methods and intentions most resembled hers (read up on the book here). Author Nevill Drury explored the points of intersection between the two in an earlier work, Pan’s Daughter: The Magical World of Rosaleen Norton:

There are distinctive parallels between Austin Spare and Rosaleen Norton. Both were influenced by witchcraft and the occult tradition of western magic, both utilised trance states, and both believed that the realm of the gods had its own intrinsic existence, the artist simply serving to manifest these archetypal energies by acting as an inspired channel. It is also of considerable interest that both artists showed a remarkable graphic skill in their earlier work, and that this skill gradually deteriorated in the later compositions – as if repeated journeys into mythic trance states had finally taken their toll. If in the final analysis one can say that Austin Spare was swamped by the cosmology which possessed him – and his forms certainly became increasingly blurred and incoherent – the same can be said of Rosaleen Norton’s work.


  1. Jay

    I was in the queue at a supermarket in Sydney once when a man behind me pulled out some copies of Rosaleen’s home photography which he had somehow obtained (I think he mentioned something about getting them off a policeman). The photos were shocking even by today’s standards; and it was the only time I have ever enjoyed shopping at Coles.

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