Robert Colquhoun - Art at Tilty Mill, Essex.

Robert Colquhoun was part of the Bohemian group of artists, many of whom where gay, living in the Fitzrovia area of central  London during and immediately after the war. He and his partner Robert MacBryde, were friends with Minton, Bacon, Vaughan, Sutherland, Adler, Wirth-Miller and many more who frequented the pubs and drinking clubs of Soho at that time. There are many recorded tales about the drinking antics of "The Two Roberts" who Colquhoun and MacBryde became known, so it is all the more amazing that they were employed as surrogate parents for 4 children living in Tilty Mill in Essex during the early 50's.

Colquhoun's friendship group in London included many writers such and Dylan Thomas , George Barker and his lover Elizabeth Smart and it was the later who decided that it would be a good idea to have " The Two Roberts" take care of her children . In 1947 she began living at Tilty Mill which is located near Great Dunmow and her role as features editor on House & Garden magazine was taking her away from home so after employing a number of house keepers came to an agreement with the Roberts that they would become Surrogate parents.

This unlikely role seems to have worked well for all and the children had great fun with the Roberts only being admonished a couple of times for their drunken exploits and all settled into a domestic routine. Both of the Roberts were poor at this point in time and Colquhoun produced few paintings at this time preferring to work on monotypes and offset drawings as both were less demanding in terms of materials , cost and time. The subject matter for this body of work was taken directly from the rural surroundings and many have a farming theme depicting horses and particular pigs as the farm was in close proximity to a pig farm and to a gypsy camp.

In 1953 Colquhoun produced a most impressive painting for the Contemporary Art Society exhibition titled  Figures in their setting. It was to be the biggest and most accomplished work that Robert Colquhoun was to produce and measured 185 x 143 cm  titled Figures in a Farmyard and is set in the courtyard at Tilty Mill.


As can been seen from the image above the painting depicts three subjects , a young girl with a long plait ; a seated man holding a stick and a grotesque pig depicted in a more formalised way. The pig is stialised in an expressive Cubist way which emphasises the aggressive sinister hostility. It is not only the influences of Picasso and Cubism that can be seen here but also those of the German Expressionist Max Beckmann and Francis Bacon.

The collection of Robert Colquhoun's work available here at Blondes Fine Art , in Hertfordshire are all from the same period and two of the monoprints we have most notably provide an insight as to where the origins of the pig, in this large exhibition oil comes from . Two of the work from 1952 shown below are  clearly similar to the final image in the 1954 oil.

In 1954 some 38 works were exhibited at the Redfern gallery which was the only major show of Colquhouns work during the Tilty Mill period. A few works were also included in the 1958 retrospective at the Whitecapel Gallery which suggests that many of the ones in the earlier exhibition did sell. However, in recent times there have been a appearance of a few more works from local Essex farmers and shopkeepers placing them up for sale which seems to indicate that they may well have been produced by Colquhoun as a form of currency to pay for food and alcohol when living in Tilty Mill.

The collection for sale here at Blondes Fine Art , located just 20 miles away from Tilty Mill are from the private collection of Sir Colin Anderson  and are all in unframed excellent condition. Please do enquire for further details .