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Eccentric British artist Sebastian Horsley dies at 47

Sebastian Horsley, an eccentric British dandy who once was crucified in the name of art and whose life of unabashed debauchery and drug addiction caused him to be barred from the United States, died June 17 of a heroin overdose at his home in London. He was 47.

His death came days after a play about his life, "Dandy in the Underworld," based on his autobiography and which he attended the night before his death, opened on the London stage.

Horsley led a life of scandal, notoriety and high style, strolling the streets of London's Soho in elaborate velvet suits, fingernail polish and a stovepipe hat. He was born into wealth and invested shrewdly in the stock market, but he spent much of his fortune on prostitutes and drugs and, as he put it, squandered the rest.

"I'm an artist - depravity is part of the job description," he told The Washington Post's Kevin Sullivan in 2008.

Horsley was a painter who had occasional exhibitions, but with his epigrammatic wit and writing style - modeled after Oscar Wilde, Evelyn Waugh and Quentin Crisp - he found a niche as a sex columnist and chronicler of the London underworld.

He found his greatest infamy when he went to the Philippines in 2000 to participate in a ritual crucifixion. Refusing painkillers for once in his life, Horsley was placed on a cross, and nails were driven through his hands. He passed out from the pain and then began to fall from the cross when a wooden foot support gave way. The episode was captured on film and included in an exhibition with a series of Horsley's paintings.

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