artist: Robert Colquhoun

From our personal collection W/C over offset carbon transfer. "Horse & Man"series.

From our personal collection W/C over offset carbon transfer. "Horse & Man"series.

Robert Colquhoun was born in Kilmarnock. He won a scholarship to study at the Glasgow School of Art, where he met Robert MacBryde with whom he established a lifelong  relationship and professional collaboration, the pair becoming known as "the two Roberts".

Robert Colquhoun served as an ambulance driver in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the Second World War. After being injured, he returned to London in 1941 where he shared studio space with MacBryde. The pair shared a house with John Minton and, from 1943, Jankel Adler. It was Adler who had been taught by Paul Klee the offset carbon transfer drawing technique and in turn he taught Colquhoun who also taught Wilhelmina Barns Graham when working in St Ives. These are wonderful unique drawings that Colquhoun produced using this method and often resemble Picasso drawings.

Colquhoun's early works  developed into a more austere, Expressionist style, heavily influenced by Picasso, and concentrated on the theme of the isolated, agonised figure. From the mid-1940s to the early 1950s he was considered one of the leading artists of his generation. Along with that of MacBryde, the work of Colquhoun was regularly shown at the Lefevre Gallery in London and they were the centre of the Fitzrovia set frequenting the Soho drinking clubs.

At the height of their acclaim they courted a large circle of friends - including Michael Ayrton, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and John Minton as well as the writers Fred Urquhart, George Barker, Elizabeth Smart and Dylan Thomas - and were renowned for their parties at their studio (77 Bedford Gardens). Colquhoun was also a prolific printmaker, producing a large number of lithographs and monotypes throughout his career. Their neighbour in Bedford Gardens was the leading industrialist  Sir Colin Anderson and he became an important patron not only acquiring work but paying for their rented accommodation in London. It is some of the collection of Sir Colin that we currently have for sale here at Blondes Fine Art .

An aching film was made in 1959 by Ken Russell – one of his earliest works for the BBC series ‘Monitor’- documents 11 minutes of the two Roberts in ‘elegant’ monochrome poverty in a rural cottage in Suffolk. They are filmed arriving in a horse-drawn cart carrying paintings to work on in their Kelsey studio and is a much watch.  A close-up of Colquhoun’s hand shows it trembling terribly whilst applying detail to his portrait Circus Woman (1959): the sureness of line betrayed by the weakness of the body. Both paintings are hung in close proximity to the film for close inspection. 

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