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Ithell Colquhoun was born in Assam, India. She studied at Cheltenham Ladies College in 1919 and in 1926 at the Cheltenham School of Arts and Crafts. In 1927, she went to London and studied at the Slade, and in 1929 was awarded first prize for Judith Showing the Head of Holofernes. In 1931 she made her first visit to Paris and experienced the work of the Surrealists, in particular that of Salvador Dali. Her first solo exhibitions were in 1936, in London and Cheltenham. The shows consisted of paintings of plants and flowers, in a Daliesque Magic Realism style. She continued to exhibit and write poetry, before moving permanently to Paul, near Penzance in Cornwall. A retrospective of her work was held in 1972 at the Exeter City Art Gallery, and a second was held at the Newlyn Orion Gallery in Penzance in 1976. In 1977, an exhibition was held of her designs for Tarot cards.

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