Ithell Colquhoun
(1906 - 1988)

Hyacinth and Cyclamen

SKU: 11135

Watercolour on paper

Height – 25.4cm
Width – 25.9cm


Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, et al. Women Only Works on Paper. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p. 45.

This early watercolour by Ithell Colquhoun precedes her first solo exhibition of Exotic Plant Decorations
at the Fine Art Society in 1936. Amy Hale has noted that it is through these detailed botanical studies that
one can trace her stylistic slide into Surrealism. Indeed, Colquhoun herself remarked that the influence of
Dali and Surrealism prophetically took root’ in these studies, for while she was in Paris as early as 1931,
the movement would not truly resonate until after she had attended the London International Surrealism
Exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries in June, 1936.

Flowers were a recurring subject of Colquhoun’s art. They are often painted in a crisp, technical manner,
while likely imbued with some symbolic hidden meaning, given Colquhoun’s interest in Occultism and
esoteric theories. According to Michel Remy, these early flower paintings not only indicate Colquhoun’s
fascination for elaborate shapes, but hint at the fantastical worlds inaccessible to rational man.’

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Colquhoun, Ithell

1906 – 1988

Ithell Colquhoun studied at Cheltenham Art School (1925’7) and
the Slade School of Fine Art (1927’31), winning joint first prize
with Elizabeth Leslie Arnold (1909′ 2005) in the 1929 Summer
Composition Competition. 

After discovering Surrealism in Paris in 1932, she held her first
solo exhibition at Cheltenham Art Gallery in 1936 and in 1939
joined the British Surrealist Group, showing alongside Roland
Penrose (1900’1984) at the Mayor Gallery that June. She was
particularly interested in automatic painting and how it could unlock
not just the unconscious mind but also the mystical. 

Despite her expulsion from the English Surrealist Group
in 1940 due to her increasing preoccupation with the occult,
Colquhoun remained active in Surrealist circles ‘ she was married to
Toni del Renzio from 1943’48. She wrote and illustrated numerous
books, including The Living Stones: Cornwall (1957), and exhibited
at the Leicester Galleries and with the LG and WIAC. She took part
in several Surrealist retrospectives in the 1970s, including a solo show
at the Newlyn Gallery in 1976, and the terms of her will bequeathed
her studio (over 3000 works) to the National Trust.


Ithell Colquhoun (1906 - 1988)
Highland Landscape, 1965
Ithell Colquhoun (1906 - 1988)
Hyacinth and Cyclamen
Ithell Colquhoun (1906 - 1988)
Autumnal Equinox
Ithell Colquhoun (1906 - 1988)
La Cathédrale Engloutie, circa 1950
Ithell Colquhoun (1906 - 1988)
Past and Future, circa 1950