Ithell Colquhoun

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Scylla, 1938, Tate Gallery.

Ithell Colquhoun (9 October 1906 – 11 April 1988) was a British Surrealist painter and author. She was born in Shillong, Eastern Bengal and Assam, British India. From the 1930s to her death, her work was exhibited widely in Britain and Germany.

She studied at the Slade School of Art in London, and later travelled to France to study the Surrealist masters, especially Salvador Dalí. However she was actually expelled from the London Surrealist Group for not giving her unconditional support to E.L.T. Mesens in 1940.

She married Toni del Renzio in 1943 and was divorced by 1948.

Best known for her paintings, Colquhoun invented new Surrealist techniques, including graphomania, stillomania, and parsemage. She was also an author, playwright, and poet.

Throughout her life she was deeply interested in the occult, especially the Kabbalistic tree of life. Her early membership to the Golden Dawn was rejected, but she later became a member of the Typhonian O.T.O, another prominent occult order.

Her bibliography includes The Sword of Wisdom, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1975, which was the first book-length biography of Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers. It remains the longest single work specifically focused on Mathers. She also published an occult novel, The Goose of Hermogenes. A recent book of her Collected Magical Writings has been published posthumously.

Colquhoun died of heart failure in the Menwinnion Country House Hotel, Lamorna, Cornwall on 11 April 1988. It is frequently written that she died in a fire at her studio, but this was not so.

Song of Songs 1933
Head 1931 (Self Portrait)


  • Salvo for Russia, 1942 (contributor)
  • The Fortune Anthology, 1942 (contributor)
  • The crying of the wind : Ireland, 1955
  • Living Stones Cornwall, 1957
  • Sword Of Wisdom - MacGregor Mathers and the Golden Dawn, 1975
  • The Rosie Crucian Secrets: Their Excellent Method of Making Medicines of Metals Also Their Lawes and Mysteries, 1985 (provides introduction)
  • Goose of Hermogenes, 2003
  • The Magical Writings of Ithell Colquhoun, 2007 (edited by Steve Nichols)
  • Ithell Colquhoun: Magician Born of Nature, 2009/2011 (by Richard Shillitoe)

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