Sunflower by Ithell
Sunflower by Ithell Colquhoun signed and dated Colquhoun/36. Estimate: £20,000-30,000

Ithell Colquhoun Blazes A Trail In Bonhams Sale Of Modern British Women Artists

London – Artist Ithell Colquhoun, influenced by Surrealism and the occult, will lead the Blazing A Trail: Modern British Women sale at Bonhams New Bond Street on 20 September 2023Sunflower, from 1936, is one of four works by the artist offered in the sale, and carries an estimate of £20,000-30,000. A world record was created at Bonhams last year when her work, Anthurium was sold for £258,699 against an estimate of £8,000-12,000.

Janet Hardie, Bonhams Senior Specialist in Modern British and Irish Art commented, “Flowers and plants often appear in Ithell Colquhoun’s work and indeed formed the subject of her first solo London exhibition in 1936, Exotic Plant Decorations, which included this painting. With Sunflower, Colquhoun gives the still life a new Surrealist frisson. Sunflowers are often interpreted in modern art as symbols of desire. A painter, occultist, poet and author, she was a remarkable talent.”

Born in Assam, India, Colquhoun came to England at a young age and studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, which was then at the forefront of allowing women the same chance as their male counterparts to develop as artists. However, Colquhoun turned to developments on the Continent for further inspiration, particularly Surrealism and the avant-garde artists who lived and worked in Paris at the time. During a stay in Paris in 1931, she saw paintings by Salvador Dali, from whom she absorbed the meticulous and detailed technique which can be seen in her paintings of flowers, of which Sunflower is a prime example. For Colquhoun, flowers symbolised the cycles of life and death both in nature and in our lives, but also of creativity and fertility, and the spellbinding power of the natural world.

Author and academic, Alyce Mahon, writing in the autumn edition of Bonhams Magazine on the work of Ithell Colquhoun observed, “Poetically entangling magic and the marvellous, occultism and automatic technique, dancing maidens and phallic stones, she not only rejected the confines of her world, but re-enchanted it for future generations.” Read Alyce Mahon’s article Bonhams : Living the dream | Bonhams Magazine #76

Other highlights featured in the September sale include:

  • A selection of works by the English painter Bridget RileySequence Study, Pale Colours, a large-scale example of work on paper has an estimate of £40,000-60,000.
  • A selection of works by British sculptor, painter, and printmaker, Sophie Ryder. Hare with Dancers in bronze from 1995 has an estimate of £15,000-20,000.
  • A selection of works by Bloomsbury Group artist, Vanessa Bell (1879-1961). Street in Asolo, painted in 1955 has an estimate of £12,000–18,000.
Left: Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) Street in Asolo, Italy,1955. Estimate: £12,000-18,000. Right: Margaret Mellis (1914-2009) Still Life with flowers. Estimate: £6,000-8,000
  • A selection of works by one of Britain’s most popular artists, Beryl Cook O.B.E. Cocktails for three, painted in 1985 has an estimate of £10,000-15,000.   
  • A selection of works by the Scottish artist Margaret Mellis which span her career from early pieces in the 1930s through to later work in the 1980s, Still Life with Flowers has an estimate of £6,000 – 8,000.

The sale will also feature works by many other notable artists including Maggi Hambling, Winifred Nicholson, Gwen John, Tracey Emin, Dame Paula Rego, Celia Paul and Frances Mary Hodgkins.

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