ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe

beau gosse


Oil on board. 35 x 21¼in. (89 x 52cm.) Provenance Sotheby's, 7 June 1976, lot 80. Sotheby's, 12 Nov. 1976, lot 99. Exhibited London, Mayor Gallery, 1939, no. 2. Harrogate, Art Gallery, 1941, no. 19. London, Hamet Gallery, 1971, ex cat. One of the Méditerranée series. A naked young man kneels. He holds a sliver of bone or a thorn in his left hand and appears to have nicked his right forearm with it, causing two drops of blood to form. One wonders whether he is participating in a blood-letting or blood-mingling ceremony, bringing to mind the description in Goose of Hermogenes where the narrator attempts to bind her lover: I open my veins to the east I open the veins of my arm with the cut of a sliver of silicon. Blood pours out … from my arm making a long arm to his home circling the island a ribbon of stain in the foam unmixing like a rusty chain to bind him in binding his home so he never can go … p. 68.) The dimensions of the work, height to width, form the golden section proportion. Additionally, the nipples are placed at the distance above the base line that is the same as the width of the painting, forming a square. ‘Beau Gosse’ is a common slang expression for an attractive young man. It may be translated as ‘matinee idol’, ‘good-looking guy or similar. When shown in Harrogate in 1941, a complainant wrote to the press describing it as ‘indecent and decadent’. A brief controversy ensued, but the painting remained on show. Perhaps the organisers felt they should show a little backbone, having refused to hang Gouffres Amers (1939). A pencil study of the sitter is known.