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Edward Alexander ('Aleister') Crowley

© the copyright holder. Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

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Born in Leamington Spa into a successful brewing but fanatically Plymouth Brethren family, Crowley became a pioneer of guideless Alpine ascents. His expedition to K2 (the first attempted) with Oscar Eckenstein, in 1902, reached a height not surpassed for another two decades. His fame before the First World War rested on his poetry, The Collected Works (1905–1907). His interest in human intelligence led him to the occult, to yoga and to Buddhism. An habitué and founder of occult societies himself, he called himself the 'Master Therion', the 'Great Beast', '666', and 'Baphomet', causing great scandal. He married the sister of the portrait painter Gerald Kelly in 1903. Painted from life, this image conveys the mystical and transcendental aspects of Crowley's fame, without the demonic qualities of his self-portraits.

National Portrait Gallery, London



Edward Alexander ('Aleister') Crowley




oil on canvas


H 91.6 x W 61 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Purchased, 2003

Work type



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St Martin’s Place, London, Greater London WC2H 0HE England

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