ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe

decorations for the hospital at

moreton in march 1936/7

Moreton in Marsh is a town that lies approximately twenty-three miles by road from Colquhoun’s home town of Cheltenham. She was comissioned to paint three works in connection with a refurbishment carried out in 1935. Only the first work had been finished in time for the opening ceremony in January 1936. 1. DECORATION FOR THE HOSPITAL OF MORETON IN MARSH, GLOUCESTERSHIRE: WAITING ROOM Room Oil on board. 80 x 67in. (203.2 x 170.1cm.) Signed ’Colquhoun/37’ lower left. Provenance Untraced. Exhibited London, Tate Gallery, 1939, no. 23 (an exhibition of photographs). This large painting shows two monumental figures, one male and one female, at a well. The setting, of fragmentary architectural features, is reminiscent of the blank buildings seen in earlier student work. The “Gloucestershire Echo” described the mural as: an ultra-modern representation of health. [It] contains two figures – a man and a woman – bathing at a well. The completed effort is symbolic of the waters of health, sunshine, the health and strength of outdoor life. What the journalist did not say was the symbolism and the figures derive directly from two of the Major Arcana cards of the Taro pack: Temperance and The Star. The figure on the right represents The Star, the 17th trump. She kneels by the well with one foot in the water and the other on the land. In each hand she holds a jug. From one she pours a liquid into the water. From the other jug she pours a liquid onto the land. Symbolically, the pool of water refers to the spiritual world and the land refers to the material world. The woman renews both with the Water of Life. The figure on the left represents Temperance, the 14th Taro trump. Colquhoun has departed somewhat from the image in the Rider-Waite-Smith pack in depicting the figure as sitting rather than standing, and having both feet in the water rather than one on land. The figure is male, but with androgynous features, and pours the essences of life from a golden chalice into a silver one. The union of the essences produces the elixir of life. 2. DRAWING FOR A MURAL ‘BENEDICT YAE’ Gouache and pencil. 15½ x 26¾in. (39.7 x 68.5cm.) Inscribed with the title. Signed and inscribed verso ‘Decoration for a children’s waiting room in a hospital’. Provenance NT. Literature Ratcliffe, 2007, ill. b/w pl. 59. At the lower centre a day-dreaming child reclines on a chaise longue. The rest of the composition depicts her reverie – a fantasy island with high cliffs, at the centre of which stands a large stately home or castle with a central courtyard. Annotations on the mount indicate that this work was carried out in connection with the murals for Moreton in Marsh Hospital. There is no evidence that it was ever installed. The meaning of the phrase ‘Benedict YAE’ remains to be determined. A related drawing, which shows the mural as it might appear on the wall exists. Correspondence in the Tate exhibition file reveals that Colquhoun offered a ‘full size cartoon and a small sketch in watercolour’ for the exhibition in addition to the photographs. It is possible that these were the present work and its associated drawing. 3. WATER-FLOWER Oil on canvas. 41 x 30in. (104.1 x 76.2cm.) Provenance Sold by the Orion Gallery, 1973. Exhibited London, Mayor Gallery, 1939, no. 11. London, Tate Gallery, 1939, no. 23. Harrogate, Art Gallery, 1941, no. 24. London, Hamet Gallery, 1971, ex cat. Penzance, Orion Gallery, 1973, no. 10, ill. b/w Literature Ratcliffe, 2007, ill. col. pl. 27. A photograph of this work is labelled Decorations for the hospital of Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire 1) Woman’s Ward. It is doubtful that it was ever displayed at the hospital as it was exhibited at the Mayor Gallery in 1939 and then remained in the artist’s possession until its sale in 1973. In style, it is very different to the other murals intended for the hospital. It is much more in keeping with other flower paintings of the period. In fact, none of the three mural paintings share a unity of style or subject matter.