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

biography

Andromaque Kazou: lesbian shore During the early months of Humfry Payne’s pursuit of her in 1933, Colquhoun was infatuated with a rather older Greek woman named Andromaque Kazou. Her appearance in Colquhoun’s life was powerful, but short-lived. Colquhoun made some ink and watercolour sketches of her and a fully worked oil portrait. Time has not been kind to the sketches; several have suffered mould or insect damage. The oil painting has not been seen since its sale in 1977. The first part of their friendship is described in “Lesbian Shore”, a lengthy text that exists in a number of longhand drafts. It went through substantial revisions, but may have been abandoned incomplete. (1) Colquhoun saw her first across a dining-room in an hotel on Mykonos. For several days she could not take her eyes off her, fantasising: my mind wandered into a Kabalistic reverie, of how each type of beauty has its own place in the tree of life, and how the signs of the Zodiac, and the planets that are at home in them, can influence the forms of the body. Her beauty must be lunar, I thought; her morbid charm derives from the pallid spell-weaving of Hecate. … Her rhythm is of the watery element — she owes to the sea-ruling constellation of the Crab, the moon’s only mansion; she shares that attractive force which draws the tides. The moon pulls up the emotional surge, the waters that are under the earth; she stirs that cauldron of abundance where the dissolving past is recalled, the unformed future given a voice. She began to become aware of her feelings: I did not try to analyse the stirrings within me, I could not reflect upon them while thus borne along. It was not until later and in calmer intervals, that I recognised this torrent that swirled me onwards as the ‘swift Hebrus’. I was being carried, indeed, to the ‘Lesbian shore’. Here the manuscript ends abruptly, and the story has to be pieced together from Kazou’s letters. They are written in French, which was not her first language, but she is far less circumspect than Colquhoun: I’ve always had extremely strong feelings for you and I’ve hidden my true sentiments under a mask of indifference and sometimes hostility… I don't believe that anybody could ever guess the extent of my love and affection… and: I often ask myself, do you also dream about what it would have been like if we had stayed only friends? Who are your friends over there? What are they like? I want to know everything that has happened since you arrived. How’s your studio, is it nice? Have I properly understood what you asked me? Like we said in Paris, I do not think that it will be too difficult to sort everything out, just find me a way to get a bit of money, just two or three French lessons or something. In any case, we should begin with this life together in Paris. then she gets cold feet: I am mystified that you could ever think that I would come to London. No! These are the things that we say but cannot actually do as it is too difficult to change a way of life and all our habitual routines, especially the routines of a spoilt lady. It is because I was serious about seeing you until you became so enthusiastic all of a sudden. That was all, my experience ended. And that was that. Kazou disappeared from view, as quickly as she had arrived. The paucity of hard evidence invites speculation – or fantasy – but the relationship was clearly more than a passing fascination. How much more we will probably never know. Notes: The title is taken from “Lycidas” by John Milton, the poem in which he mourns the death of a friend by drowning: His gory visage down the stream was sent, Down the swift Hebrus to the Lesbian shore