ROBERT COLQUHOUN 1914 – 1962 & ROBERT MACBRYDE 1913 -1966
‘The Two Roberts’, both from poor working-class homes and aged 19 and 20 respectively, met at the Glasgow School of Art in 1933 and remained inseparable partners for life. They were funded to travel in Europe before the outbreak of war in 1939. MacBryde moved to London, followed later by Colquhoun, where the editor of Horizon magazine, Cyril Connolly and its backer, Peter Watson, introduced him to Graham Sutherland and younger artists in the emerging Neo-Romantic movement. This was focused on studios in Bedford Gardens, Kensington, but Europeans such as Picasso, Braque and the Polish émigré Jankel Adler also steered them to early success.
Their work can be hard to tell apart. Their subjects were relatively conventional – typically still life and figures in interiors or landscape – but their edgy expressionism with acid colours and sharp angles gave them a particular place in the Neo-Romantic movement. Both became accomplished in lithography, working at the Miller’s Press near Lewes. Alcohol played a destructive role in their lives, and new fashions overtook their work. From 1950 to 1954, the writer Elizabeth Smart gave them a home at Tilty Mill near Great Dunmow, Essex.
Later, after a spell at Kersey in Suffolk, they moved to London where Colquhoun died in 1962. MacBryde, distraught, moved to Ireland and was killed in a road accident in Dublin in 1966.