ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe

artistic development:

flower painting During a stay in Paris in 1931, Colquhoun saw paintings by Salvador Dali and other surrealist artists. The impact of surrealism on her imagery, however, was not seen until after 1936: the immediate influence was more technical. What she learnt from her study of Dali was a meticulous and precise technique. This was displayed initially in paintings of plants and flowers. Apart from juvenilia, the first flower paintings appeared in 1932. Initially the medium was watercolour. The first oil paintings of flowers came in 1935. In a burst of sustained creative activity, she produced sufficient work, twenty-five items in all, for her first solo London show, “Exotic Plant Decorations”, held in 1936. Flowers and plants remained a motif to which she returned throughout her life. For Colquhoun, flowers were undoubtedly reminders of the eternal cycle of death and rebirth that patterns each year and our lives. They reveal the magic of nature; they symbolise fertility and creativity. Her selection of plants and flowers reveals a fascination for the elaborate and the exotic and, in particular, with forms that resemble sexual organs (Double Coconut, 1936). The detailing of the leaves and stems, the close-focus, as though magnified, and the close cropping that takes the forms right to the edge of the canvas, characterise many of the oils of this period and can be seen in Bird of Paradise Flowers (c.1936). Flowers in a Greenhouse (1934) is unusual in having a wider perspective.
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