ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe

battle fury of cuchullin


Oil on canvas. 29 x 23in. Provenance Gifted by the artist to Derek Stanford, sometime after 1960. Offered on Ebay, October 2018. Exhibited London, Swiss Cottage, 1950, no. 64, as Battle Fury: Cachullin. London, South London Gallery, 1950, no. 51. Cambridge, Heffer Gallery, 1953, no. 17. Cuchullin was one of the mightiest heroes of the Celtic race and Champion of Ireland. He would become possessed by a battle fury during which he was irresistible. He features in a number of plays and poems by Yeats. Colquhoun’s depiction of Cuchullin’s battle-fury almost certainly originated in her reading of the Táin Bó Cuailnge, or Cattle Raid of Cooley, the so-called Irish Iliad. Thomas Kinsella’s translation describes in detail Cuchullin’s “warp-spasm” during which “His body made a furious twist inside his skin, so that his feet and shins switched to the rear and his heels and calves switched to the front …he sucked one eye so deep into his head that a wild crane couldn't probe it onto his cheek out of the depths of his skull; the other eye fell out along his cheek”. Additionally, his hair stood up in massive spikes strong enough to skewer an apple, and blood spurted from his forehead. The counterpart is with NT bequest.