The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is hosting the first retrospective of the work of Robert Colqhuoun and Robert Macbyde two talented Scottish Artists who found success in the London Art scene in the 1940s and 50s. Taken up by Peter Watson who published the Art and Literary magazine Horizon, the two Roberts were soon taking centre stage in a bohemian art world the members of which frequented the pubs and clubs of Fitzrovia and Soho. Their fashionable Kensington studio played host to the likes of Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, Dylan Thomas, John Minton , Wyndam Lewis , John Deakin and when down from Scotland, Hugh Mac Dermid and Ian Hamilton Findlay . Success followed quickly and there were soon to be known as ‘The Golden Boys of Bond Street’ where they taken up by the Lefevre and Redfern Galleries.
Of the Open College of the Arts students who gathered on a cold November day for a study visit few had heard of these two artists who had spent all their working lives in London and the South of England. Here was an opportunity to look at the work of the Two Roberts collected together for the first time from major Art Galleries and private collectors. Collecting information that could be included in log books, the group of Painting, Drawing and Textiles students followed the ups and downs of the Roberts eventful lives that were to result in their early and tragic deaths.
Theirs was a style that was influenced by the Europeans and especially by Picasso and Braque and it showed the existential influence that pervaded post war Paris. While Colquhoun worked figuratively and had the greater reputation – Wyndam Lewis considered him the best of the younger painters – MacBryde concentrated on still life. The revelation of the show however is the series of figure paintings by MacBryde that are easily the equal to his partners work and while they might lack Colquhoun’s angst ridden persona, they make up in strong design, colour and dramatic content.
With sketchbooks at the ready, the OCA students annotated and recorded the paintings on the walls in traditional manner. Photography was strictly disallowed, so the students were left to exercise their drawing skills to best advantage and this proved to be a highlight of the day. Discussion continued at lunch and the students enjoyed the chance to communicate with likeminded students who had come from as far away as the Heal of Italy and as far north as the Isle of Lewis.
Fashion is a fickle thing even in the fine art world and many a big reputation has been brought low by too strict an adherence to an outmoded way of working. In 1962 Colquhoun died of a heart attack while preparing for a show of monotypes ,a medium he had made his own ,while MacBryde died 4 years later knocked over by a car as he danced a gig outside a Dublin pub at closing time.
This show is a chance to reassess the work of Colquhoun and MacBryde, two bright stars who fell from grace but whose work still gives pleasure to many and can be now viewed at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh until 24th May 2015.