Magician Born of Nature: the Life and Work of Ithell Colquhoun

Magician Born of Nature: the Life and Work of Ithell Colquhoun

Online talk, Tue 13th Oct 2020

Writer and researcher Dr. Richard Shillitoe discusses the life and work of British artist, writer and occultist Ithell Colquhoun. As the talk sets out to show, she took her inspiration from the spiritual world as much as she did from the natural world, making extensive use of automatic drawing and painting methods as well as the contents of her dreams.

Ithell Colquhoun (1906-1988) is one of the 20th century’s most significant British surrealist artists. The daughter of a senior civil servant in India, she studied at the Slade School of Fine Art (1927-31) and had an award-winning painting exhibited in 1931 at the Royal Academy. She travelled widely in Mediterranean countries and lived in London before spending the greater part of her adult life in Cornwall where she painted, wrote and pursued extensive occult research. In 1940 she was ejected from the London Surrealist Group for refusing to compromise her occult interests. Her paintings have appeared in solo exhibitions as well as being shown in major art galleries. A significant body of Colquhoun’s artworks and archives were acquired by Tate in 2019, gifted by the National Trust. Her fame as a writer is largely based on a hermetic novel, Goose of Hermogenes, and two highly personal travelogues The Crying of the Wind: Ireland and The Living Stones: Cornwall. She also published Sword of Wisdom, the authoritative biography of MacGregor Mathers, the founder of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. She died in Cornwall in 1988.

Dr Richard Shillitoe is an independent researcher. His book Ithell Colquhoun: Magician Born of Nature (2010) includes an extensive catalogue of Colquhoun’s artwork. He co-edited the first publication of Colquhoun’s novel I Saw Water (2014) and edited the illustrated edition of her first novel Goose of Hermogenes (2018). He has recently published Medea’s Charms (2019), a volume of Colquhoun’s poems, essays and short stories. He maintains the website