The Living Stones
In The Living Stones, the British surrealist painter and writer Ithell Colquhoun drifts through Cornwall in search of an artist’s studio and sanctuary from the modern world.
Her finely wrought and learned observations of festivals, fairs and druidic rituals, quickly establish her as the reader’s gnostic guide to the county.
She paints a land of ghosts, pedlars, borrowed saints and holy sites, charmed wells and crumbling megaliths, and finds in the city emigrants a prefiguring of hippie culture. Above all, Colquhoun connects us with the eerie, numinous beauty of the Cornish countryside, quietly insisting that we see the Cornwall she sees: an ancient land of myth and legend.
ITHELL COLQUHOUN (1906—88) was a painter and writer whose works contributed greatly to the British Surrealist movement before and after the Second World War, and her phantasmagorical landscapes and penetrating portraits hang on the walls of major galleries throughout the UK.
The daughter of a civil servant in India, Colquhoun was born in Assam, but was soon sent back to England.
She studied at Cheltenham Art School and the Slade School of Art, after which she took studios around Europe, studying under the likes of Paul Vézelay and André Breton.
In 1942 she married fellow surrealist Toni del Renzio.
An acrimonious divorce in 1947 also saw Colquhoun informally separate from the surrealist movement, leaving her free to explore her interest in mysticism, the esoteric and the occult.
The results of this pre-occupation are most evident in her writing, which includes the short novel Goose of Hermogenes(1961) and two earlier travelogues, The Crying of the Wind (1955) and The Living Stones (1957).
She died in Lamorna, Cornwall 1988.
STEWART LEE is a stand-up comedian and writer.
He was born in 1968. His work includes Jerry Springer: The Opera and the BBC series Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle. His North London home is full of records and books.
The Living Stones
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