ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
© All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe 2015-16  All artworks copyright the estate of the artist.

l’helice

                                  1939

Oil on canvas. 22 x 22in. (56 x 56cm.) Signed and dated: ‘Colquhoun/39’ lower right. Provenance Sotheby’s, 10 June 1981, lot 175. Sotheby’s, 8 March 1995, lot 275, ill. b/w Peter Nahum at The Leicester Galleries, London. Christie’s, 15 Nov. 2006, lot 72, ill. col.  Exhibited London, Mayor Gallery, 1939, no. 3. Northampton, Art Gallery, 1939, no. 6. Harrogate, Art Gallery, 1941. Batley, Bagshaw Gallery, 1941. London, Hamet Gallery, 1971, ex cat. London, Leva Gallery, 1974, no. 14. Penzance, Newlyn Gallery, 1976, no. 7. London, Parkin Gallery, 1977, no. 21. Literature Ratcliffe, 2007, ill. b/w pl. 46. One of the Méditerranée series. This is a prime instance of magic realism, that is to say, what happens when a realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe. A large ship’s propeller is still attached to the propeller shaft. But what is it doing on dry land, in a vague but urban architectural setting? How did it get here, and who would want to bring it to such a place? This is a rare example in Colquhoun’s art of the classic surrealist device: an object wrenched out of context and out of scale; the dislocation that disorientates.  As a depiction of a marine object, displaced from its natural medium onto the land, the painting provides a good example of the lasting fascination, which Colquhoun held for the relationship between elemental water and earth, although seldom expressed as obliquely as here.