ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe

alcove II


Oil on board. 9 x 13½in. (22.9 x 34.3cm.) Signed and dated: ‘Colquhoun/48’ lower right. Provenance Purchased from the Orion Gallery in 1974 by the present owner. Exhibited Penzance, Newlyn Gallery, 1974, (Summer 2), no. 14. Literature Ratcliffe, 2007, col. pl. 40 illustrates this painting, but captions it The Long Journey (1946). It is reproduced again, correctly captioned, in b/w as pl. 72. Although Colquhoun kept many of the counterparts of her decalcomanias of the 1940s, only a few, including Alcove II (1948) were ever reworked and exhibited, and never with its pair. In the majority of cases she used a sheet of paper to compress and spread the paint, suggesting that she regarded it as a means to an end; an essential part of the technical process, but of limited importance in itself. However, for Alcove II she used a prepared artist’s board, indicating, perhaps, that she planned to work on both part and counterpart after the separation had been made. In the Alcove pair, the images are identical in all particulars, save that the hues in the background setting are warmer in Alcove, compared with Alcove II. One wonders, as always, whether Colquhoun had an hermetic purpose in mind. At the time these works were being painted, she was also writing about Siamese twins as well as executing a series of watercolours that deal with the androgyne. It must surely have occurred to her that the peeling apart of the part and counterpart of a decalcomania into two halves that mirror each other, is analogous to the separation of the genders and the division of the androgyne from the united whole. The two year difference in date between Alcove (1946) and Alcove II is strange. Perhaps she signed it at a later date and mis-remembered the date of its execution - not the only time she did this.