Austin Osman Spare: Psychopathia Sexualis

March 19th - May 22nd 2022
Iceberg Projects, Chicago

Curated by Rebecca Fasman, Ryan M. Pfeiffer & Rebecca Walz 


They are not erotic or obscene drawings in the ordinary sense at all…
-Eric Dingwall

BLOOMINGTON, IN. AND CHICAGO, IL. -- Iceberg Projects and the Kinsey Institute, Indiana University, are pleased to present Austin Osman Spare: Psychopathia Sexualis, the first solo exhibition for the artist in North America. This landmark exhibition celebrates the centennial anniversary of a rare folio of erotic drawings from the Kinsey Institute’s Collections. The unveiling of this folio, on view in its entirety for the first time, contributes forty-four new works to the oeuvre of Austin Osman Spare (1886–1956).

The works on display depict numerous tableaus of a grotesque bacchanalia featuring monstrous figures, satyroi, animals, and even portraits of Spare himself. Completed c. 1921–1922, the principal drawings are 15 × 10 inches and executed in the artist’s distinctively sinuous and sharp graphite line work. Spare’s proto-surrealist technique, of first lightly outlining automatic contours and transforming those marks into highly detailed renderings, combined with his virtuosic draftsmanship, is fundamen- tal to his art praxis and marks his contribution to the history of art and modern Western esotericism.

The title of the show is derived from three works titled thus within the portfolio, which were named af- ter the famous book of the same name written by Richard von Krafft-Ebing. Due to the nature of their content, the drawings were illegal to possess and display at the time of their creation and were never published in the artist’s lifetime, but found safekeeping within the Kinsey Institute’s collection in 1963.

Coinciding with the exhibition, Fulgur Press has produced a full-color facsimile of the portfolio of Austin Osman Spare drawings from the Kinsey Institute, due for publication on April 30th, 2022. An edition of 1500 copies will be available, with a further deluxe edition, signed by the contributors. In addition to the 44 works by Spare, the book will include texts that explore aspects of the artist’s work through both poetic and critical methods. The essays included are by Robert Shehu-Ansell, Dr. Jere- my Biles, and Elijah Burgher, as well as a Preface by Rebecca Fasman, and an Introduction by Ryan Pfeiffer and Rebecca Walz.

The exhibition and publication are part of the Kinsey Institute’s 75th Anniversary celebration, and the 30th anniversary of the founding of FULGUR PRESS.

This exhibition contains sexually explicit imagery.

For press inquiries concerning the exhibition contact: |

For information about FULGUR PRESS visit:


Austin Osman Spare (1886–1956) was an English artist, writer, and publisher, widely regarded as one of the finest draftsmen of his generation. Between 1904 and 1912, his early commercial success with grotesque themes in fine pen and ink prompted critics to compare his work with that of Aubrey Beardsley and Albrecht Durer. From 1916–1921, Spare diversified into publishing, launching two journals and a book, which served as vehicles for Spare’s own work and his wider taste in grotesque art, but these themes faltered in the new post-war culture.

In 1924, Spare suffered a personal crisis. His marriage to the actress Eily Shaw ended in 1919 and, finding himself out-of-step with the cultural zeitgeist, the artist wrote Anathema of Zos (London: Pri- vately Published, 1927), a visceral criticism of the art world, collectors and curators who had previously supported him. The artist began to recover commercially and socially in the late 1930s, when a new generation of intellectuals and collectors rediscovered his work. In his later years, Spare continued to exhibit, and over the course of his life he produced more than 3000 works. He died in 1956, fêted by the press.

The principal drawings of the Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis portfolio from the Kinsey Institute most likely date from 1921–1922 and correspond sufficiently with those produced for The Book of Ugly Ecstasy and The Valley of Fear to suggest the present folio was the first of a series of similar works. The Kinsey portfolio’s Sadean themes provide further evidence of Spare’s co-incidental alignment with Surrealism. Spare cited the Krafft-Ebing portfolio on several occasions throughout his life, and as early as the late 1920s. The discovery of the Kinsey Institute portfolio therefore offers confirmation of Spare’s account and provides an important new primary source for scholarship.

-Robert Shehu-Ansell


THE KINSEY INSTITUTE at Indiana University has been the premier research institute on human sexuality and relationships and a trusted source for evidence-based information on critical issues in sexuality, gender, and reproduction for 75 years. Today’s Kinsey Institute boasts an expansive interdisciplinary research and education program, while being home to multiple scientific research laboratories. The Kinsey Institute Library & Special Collections are the largest research collection dedicated to sexuality and are a destination research collection for scholars and students, containing case histories, fine art, photography, artifacts, film, books, and archival collections. Kinsey Institute outreach includes traveling art exhibitions, public scholarship, research lectures, and a human sexuality education program.

ICEBERG PROJECTS (est. 2010) is an art project space located in Chicago’s diverse Rogers Park neighborhood. Founded by leading HIV/AIDS researcher Dr. Daniel S. Berger MD, Iceberg’s mission is to give exhibition opportunities to emerging artists, artists of color, and queer artists, particularly those whose work engages with the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic. Iceberg functions as a place for like-minded artists, scholars, and guest curators to develop experimental projects that bring critically important artists to the attention of local and national communities without the pressures of a for-profit enterprise.

FULGUR PRESS is the leading independent publisher for esotericism and magic in visual culture. Founded in 1992 by Robert Shehu-Ansell, the press works with artists, writers and editors who explore ideas of agency and enchantment through scholarship and practice. With an emphasis upon material quality and editorial rigor, Fulgur Press seeks to make books that challenge the Enlightenment treatment of magic and so rediscover its role and cultural impact today. Their work has been featured by Artforum, The New York Post, The Guardian, The New York Times, The LA Review of Books, Hyperallergic, BoingBoing, El País, The Financial Times, The Paris Review, WIRED, and many others.

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