Speaker 2022 – Robert Shehu-Ansell

The Scent of the Secret Rose: Ithell Colquhoun and the Tarot
In 1977, the Newlyn Gallery in Cornwall exhibited a series of 78 tarot designs quite unlike any previous. Bold and complex, these strange works employed a radical non-figurative approach that seemed to reject long-held notions of tarot symbolism. The artist was Ithell Colquhoun, then aged 70. Who was Colquhoun and why did she produce these designs? And why then, toward the end of her long career as an artist? Fully illustrated with examples of her card designs and other archival images, this talk will explore Colquhoun’s long relationship with the tarot, from 1930–1977. Beginning with her work while at the Slade School of Fine Art, c. 1930, it will trace the development of her thinking from the early figurative approaches to the fully abstract Taro as Colour. Throughout, we will explore her fascination with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and in particular, the way these interests became conflicted with her involvement with Surrealism, c. 1940.

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