ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe

humfry gilbert garth payne


Oil on canvas. 27 x 14in. (68.5 x 35.5cm.) Signed and dated 1935. Provenance London, NPG. Bequeathed by Mrs. Arthur H.S. (Peter) Megaw, 1993. Exhibited Cheltenham, Municipal Art Gallery, 1936, no. 10. Literature Ribeiro (2000) briefly discusses this portrait from the perspective of an historian of costume. Ratcliffe, 2007, ill. b/w pl. 42. Mantes, 2009, ill. col. fig. 62. Humfry Payne (1902-1936) was a gifted archaeologist. Colquhoun met him in Athens where he was the Director of the British School of Archaeology. His major publication was Necrocorinthia, a scholarly work on the arts of ancient Corinth. He married the writer and critic Dilys Powell in 1926. Her account of their life together, The Traveller’s Journey is Done, was published in 1943. He died on Greece of an acute infection, before the ready availability of antibiotics. An extensive series of letters from Payne to Colquhoun, chronicling their relationship between 1933 - 1935,exists. Payne’s feelings for Colquhoun were, at the very least, an intense infatuation. Colquhoun’s feelings for him, although her letters have not survived, were clearly more reserved, tempered perhaps by the fact of his marriage to Powell. Many years later Colquhoun sold Powell a sketch of her late husband. Situating Payne in the doorway not only serves to accentuate his great height (he was over 6ft. 6ins. tall), it also provides another instance of Colquhoun’s interest in transitional places. The National Portrait Gallery also has a watercolour portrait of Payne, in the same pose, purchased from the artist in 1979. Peter Megaw was also an eminent archaeologist. He married Elektra Megnoletski, Colquhoun’s friend from the Slade School.