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Robert COLQUHOUN 1914 - 1962

Biography

Born in Kilmarnock, Robert studied at the Glasgow School of Art where he met Robert MacBryde who became his lifelong friend. Hugh Adam Crawford and Ian Fleming were his principal tutors, but he also came into contact with James Cowie at Hospitalfield the postgraduate Art School. In 1937-9 Colquhoun and MacBryde visited France and Italy and in 1940-1 he served as an ambulance driver before being invalided out of the Army. In 1941, Colquhoun and MacBryde moved to London where they shared a studio in Bedford Gardens with John Minton and Jankel Adler, who moved into the studio in 1943. Adler encouraged Colquhoun to forget landscape and concentrate on figures, which he treated in an angular manner.

His first one-man show was held at the Lefevre Gallery in 1943 and during the later 1940s Colquhoun painted many of his most moving works. Artists Keith Vaughan and Michael Ayrton also had an influence upon Colquhoun’s work in London. In 1947 Colquhoun and MacBryde were evicted from their studio for their rowdy behaviour and moved to Lewes, Sussex, where they made lithographs and drawings for Miller’s Press.

A visit to Italy in 1949 resulted in a further show in London, but the paintings were badly received. Between 1949 and 1954 MacBryde and Colquhoun lived in Dunmow, Essex, and Colquhoun concentrated on animal painting; he sold little and money was short. Together they designed costumes and sets for the ballet Donald of the Burthens, choreographed by Leonide Massine at Covent Garden in 1951 and Colquhoun also designed for the 1953 King Lear at Stratford. He also produced a large canvas for the Arts Council Festival of Britain exhibition Sixty Paintings for ’51. In 1958 a major retrospective exhibition of Colquhoun’s work was staged at the Whitechapel, but he died of heart disease in London four years later. Colquhoun’s best work is powerful and tragic implying loneliness and desolation.