A Decadent Parade of Outrageous Fancies: Alastair

Drôles de gens que ces gens-là

“Who is Alastair”, nurse wrote J. Lewis May in 1936. “No one knows; not even – it is hinted – Alastair himself.”

An artist, ailment composer, cialis sale dancer, mime, poet, singer and translator, Alastair was a fascinating and elusive personality, and perhaps best known as a gifted illustrator of the fin-de-siecle period.

Officially born of German nobility in 1887 to the family of Von Voigt, and later mysteriously acquiring the title of Baron, Hans Henning Voigt was an enigma. He claimed to be a changeling…the spawn of an illegitimate union between a hot headed Bavarian prince and a pretty Irish lass (and many of his relations later accepted this explanation of his origins). To his delight, “he was referred to as German by English writers, as English by German writers, and as Hungarian by French writers.”

Our Lady of Pain

A collector of characters, Alastair had a great gift for friendship despite his bizarre and capricious persona, theatrical behaviors, and perpetual unhappiness. Among those in his inner circle were Harry and Caresse Crosby; Harry, having heard of Alastair, believed him to be “the embodiment of all his fantasies, a creator of the most outrageous fancies”, and hastened to meet with him. Many years later Caresse recalled of the first visit, “He lived in a sort of Fall of usher House, you know, with bleak, hideous trees drooping around the doors and the windows… a blackamoor ushered us into a room where there was a black piano with a single candle burning on it. Soon Alastair himself appeared in the doorway in a white satin suit; he bowed, did a flying split and slid across the polished floor to stop at my feet, where he looked up and said, ‘Ah, Mrs. Crosby!’”

Although clearly influenced by the sinister, serpentine style of Aubrey Beardsley, with echoes of the deliciously unhinged work of Harry Clarke, and a bit of the occult grotesquery of Austin Osman Spare’s art – Alastair’s perversely decadent illustrations are wholly, unmistakably, his own. His strangely attractive beings, with alternately tortured, anguished or menacing countenances, ornately and elegantly attired, skulked and cavorted amongst all manner of plays, novels and short stories. Oscar Wilde’s Salome, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher (1928 edition), and Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Chloderlos de Laclos are just a few examples of works that contained examples of Alastair’s menagerie of fever dream fantasies.

Alastair retired in relative obscurity, and there were few to mourn his death in Munich in 1969. A dazzling, melancholy character of his own creation, he was a man of rare and unique tastes, and perhaps a mystery right to the end; but mostly, one would surmise – a man, who, “was as he was because he could not be otherwise.”

The Artist at Home

Chamber Music, from Manon Lescaut


Ashtaroth, from the Sphinx

Scharfrichter und Schergen

“Sing to me of that odorous green Eve”, from the Sphinx

Three Blind Princes

Manon Lescaut

13 Responses to “A Decadent Parade of Outrageous Fancies: Alastair”

  1. Lord Broodington Says:

    Utterly gorgeous set, you definitely showcased some of his best illustrations. Few figures in history managed the sheer mystery and allure of Alastair.

  2. Drax Says:

    Evocative, intriguing, well-done.

  3. EvelynChrist Says:


    thank you

  4. R. Says:

    Beautiful. Extremely so.

  5. Annie Says:

    These are positively DREAMY. Thank you.

  6. Mer Says:

    Oh! My goodness, these are incredible. Definitely in the same lovely, nefarious realm as Beardsley and Clarke. Thank you so much for sharing!

  7. JoAsakura Says:

    these are GORGEOUS. I want very much to learn more about him and his works now!! :D

  8. Emera Says:

    …he bowed, did a flying split and slid across the polished floor to stop at my feet, where he looked up and said, ‘Ah, Mrs. Crosby!’”

    A-MA-ZING. Thank you for this post and the image selections! So inspiring.

  9. Dave C Says:

    I have a soft spot for Alastair, but can’t shake the feeling that he’s somewhat overrated compared to the above mentioned Clarke and Beardsley. His is, at best, a minor if intriguing talent which lacks the capacity for invention of a Beresford Egan, for example. That said, he seemed a fascinating character whose art and life need to be considered as a whole, not unlike Cocteau.

  10. Rafaella Says:

    How fabulous, I feel inspired now!

  11. fin-de-seicle | Maggie and The Shallow Skin Holes Says:

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  12. KJBishop.net » Blog Archive » ‘Alastair’, Baron von Voigt: where have you been all my life? Says:

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