Seeking the Marvellous: Ithell Colquhoun, British Women & Surrealism conference

Seeking the Marvellous is a two-day interdisciplinary symposium that will examine the work of Ithell Colquhoun (1906 – 1988) and other women connected both with Surrealism and with Britain. Organised by Plymouth College of Art in partnership with the Black Mirror research network, the symposium will be held at the college on 22 & 23 March 2018.

During her lifetime Colquhoun was widely respected, both as an artist and an occultist, but since her death her oeuvre has been largely lost from public view. Her intellectual and artistic contributions to Surrealism and to British modernism and occultism have seen some scholarly attention, but very little intensive investigation.

This symposium seeks to re-examine Colquhoun and her place both in art history and in the history of occultism from a variety of perspectives. There will also be a major strand on Leonora Carrington and contributions on other women connected with Surrealism in Britain. The symposium will acknowledge and celebrate the connections between Surrealism and the occult and magic: concepts which have informed and enriched the work of Colquhoun and Carrington and other surrealist artists.

Leading international scholars will contribute keynote speeches, not only on Colquhoun, but also on other women connected with Surrealism in Britain, including Leonora Carrington, Valentine Penrose, Virginia Woolf, Stella Snead and Velona Pilcher.

Renowned experts Susan Aberth, Amy Hale and Victoria Ferentinou will speak at the symposium, as will Joanna Moorhead, whose biography of her great aunt The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington has added greatly to scholarship on Carrington. Also contributing will be independent scholar Richard Shillitoe, whose pioneering work on Colquhoun has done much to bring her work back into the public domain, and Adrian Glew, Head of Tate Archives.

The symposium will also include a screening of a new documentary film based on the memories of Jo O’Cleirigh, who worked with Colquhoun, and a performance of Colquhoun’s poetry set to Norman Demuth’s music.

What: Seeking The Marvellous, Ithell Colquhoun, British Women & Surrealism conference

When: Thursday 22 March 2018 – 9am-6pm & Friday 23 March 2018 – 9am-6pm

Where: Studio Theatre, Plymouth College of Art

Cost: The conference fee is £90 (£40 concessions) and includes all sessions, including evening events on 22 March. Lunch and refreshments will also be included.

Tickets: Now on sale via Eventbrite.

For further information, please contact Judith Noble at or Tilly Craig at, or visit