This web site provides an introduction to the 20th century British artist, Ithell Colquhoun. Here you will find information about her life and work.







November 2014


Ithell Colquhoun’s occult novel I Saw Water has just been published for the first time.


The action takes place in and around a convent on the Island of the Dead, but its spiritual context derives from sources as varied as Roman Catholicism, the teachings of the Theosophical Society, Goddess spirituality, Druidism, the mystical Qabalah, and Neoplatonism. It is informed throughout by Colquhoun's own personal experiences of magical rituals and teachings gained by her membership of societies that included the O.T.O.; the Saint Église Celtique en Bretagne; the Theosophical Society, co-masonic lodges, and others.


More information can be found here:


Composed in the 1960s, I Saw Water consists largely of material taken from the author’s dreams experienced over the preceding twenty years. The novel challenges such fundamental distinctions as those between sleeping and waking, the two separated genders, and life and death.

The book also includes a number of essays, poems and illustrations of artworks, many previously unpublished, that help place the novel in the broader context of Colquhoun’s work. An introduction, bibliography of Colquhoun’s publications and extensive footnotes complete the volume.




For an important and scholarly illustrated paper on Colquhoun, read:


    Morrisson, M.S. Ithell Colquhoun and Occult Surrealism in

    Mid-Twentieth-Century Britain and Ireland.

    MODERNISM/modernity, vol 21(3), 587-616, 2014




At the Thirteenth Stroke of Midnight edited by Michel Remy. Manchester: Carcanet Press 2013.


In 2008 Michel Remy, the preeminent scholar of British surrealism, published an anthology of British surrealist poetry in French translation under the title Au Treizième Coup de Minuit; Anthologie du Surrealisme en Angleterre. And now the same pieces are back in their original language: Carcanet Press has  published the collection as At the Thirteenth Stroke of Midnight, Surrealist Poetry in Britain. Remy has made a number of minor changes and additions, the most notable of which is the inclusion of a bibliography of British surrealist writings.


The volume includes six short texts by Colquhoun. All have been published before – indeed, they have all been reprinted before. The excerpt from Goose of Hermogenes that first appeared in New Road 1943 has been reprinted no less than six times. Nonetheless, it is convenient to have them in one place and to see them in the context of pieces by other writers and poets of the period. It is a slight surprise to see reproductions of some images from Grimoire of the Entangled Thicket, published years later in 1973 at a time when Colquhoun was more interested in Goddess spirituality than in surrealism.




Audio memories of Toni del Renzio


Colquhoun was married, briefly, to Toni del Renzio in the early 1940s. In old age he was interviewed as part of the National Life Stories Collections: Artist's Lives project. The tapes were deposited with the British Library and,  at my request, have just been digitised.


To listen to his memories of Colquhoun, you will need to visit the British Library at St Pancras or the Northern branch at Boston Spa and locate a Soundserver terminal. Select the Audio Catalogue option and enter ‘F11121’ into the search box. This will then call up a couple of entries. The first one is titled ‘F11121-F11125’. Click the blue box next to it marked ‘Details’. In the listing that appears, the tape that concerns Colquhoun is part 21.


There is little that is new, but at least you will learn how to pronounce her name correctly, something that most people get wrong.


Ithell Colquhoun: Magician Born of Nature (revised edition)  by Richard Shillitoe, January 2010.  A greatly expanded, corrected, updated edition with additional illustrations


Can be ordered from: Amazon etc. or direct from the publisher:














Woman is the magician born of nature by reason of her great natural sensibility, and of her instinctive sympathy with such subtle energies as these intelligent inhabitants of the air, the earth, fire and water

  - Moina Mathers





All written material on this site is copyright © Richard Shillitoe 2006-14.  All rights reserved.


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