Ithell Colquhoun

April 27 2021

After decades of neglect, the British artist and writer Ithell Colquhoun (1906-1988) is finally recognized as one of the most exciting and creative occult thinkers of the 20th century. “Pure psychic automatism”, that’s how fellow surrealist André Breton described her. These flattering words from him are quite a surprise as the Surrealist movement made little effort to uplift its women, despite their unmissable presence. After only one year as a member of the British Surrealist Group, Colquhoun was expelled in 1940, as she refused to comply with their rules. Her work and occult practice were apparently too esoteric, even for them.

Besides her work as a painter, she wrote a number of books and articles on magic, divination, landscape, and myth. Especially Celtic mythology was an ever-present reference in her work and I see in her a modern druidess. Appropriately enough, she spent the last decades of her life in Cornwall.

I am identified with every leaf and pebble, and any threatened hurt to the wilderness of the valley seems to me a rape.
Ithell Colquhoun

Here’s some information on the first image below:
Her 1938 painting “Scylla” is a smart reinterpretation of the eponymous Greek monster that feeds on Homer’s sailors. “It was suggested by what I could see of myself in a bath,” she said of the seascape, which she declared a reflection of her own body, “it is thus a pictorial pun, or double-image.”