ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe

sea star


Oil on board. 14 x 10½in. (35.5 x 26.7cm.) Signed and dated. Provenance Sold by the Newlyn Gallery, 1976. Private collection. Exhibited London, Hampstead Artists’ Council, 1945-6, no. 143. London, Mayor Gallery, 1947, (paintings), no. 3. ? Paris, Galerie Creuze, 1967, no. 39. London, Leva Gallery, 1974, no. 17. Penzance, Newlyn Gallery, 1976, no. 14. Literature Colquhoun, 1949, ill. b/w p. 19. Chadwick, 1985, ill. b/w pl. 139, discussed p. 154. Ratcliffe, 2007, ill. b/w pl. 33 (but labelled pl. 35). A gaping cosmic vagina appears in the sky above a naturalistic sea-scape, complete with phallic light- house. The French name for a starfish is étoile de mer. The shape of the dominant decalcomania form may have suggested the title but the painting also plays on the identification of elemental water as female and reminds us of the generative and nurturing powers of women. One of the names given to the Virgin Mary is Stella Maris – sea star – emphasising her roles as protector of her devotees and beacon of hope. A lighthouse is also a protective beacon for mariners. Star of the Sea is a name that is sometimes given to Isis, the Egyptian goddess of fertility, who shares many attributes with Mary.