Tuesday, 18 October 2016
The Two Roberts
Having acquired a lithograph by Robert Colquhoun earlier this year I decided to read The Last Bohemians, The Two Roberts - Colquhoun and MacBryde by Roger Bristow. The two Roberts met at Glasgow School of Art and were inseparable until Colquhoun's death from a heart attack at the age of 47 in September 1962. MacBryde survived until May 1966 when he was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Dublin following an evening's drinking. They were one of the homosexual double-acts that have cropped up a few times in the history of art: one immediately thinks of Ricketts and Shannon and Gilbert & George.
The Last Bohemians is an interesting study of the pair, but I felt by the end that I still didn't really know them that well. Bristow is more forgiving than some commentators have been about their drunken and abusive behaviour and it has to be said that after Colquhoun's initial success and fame they certainly experienced some misfortunes. They were, however, extremely fortunate in having a number of well-off and not so well-off friends who supported them, paying their rent and lending them cash, in some cases for years.
The book introduced me to the artist John Kashdan who I hadn't come across before, whose work seems worth looking for, as well as two enterprising ladies from Lewes, Frances Byng-Stamper and Caroline Lucas who founded the Miller's Press and ran an art gallery in the town that attracted a lot of big names. There is an informative piece about them in Country Life (16 April 1987). More information here and here. Apparently, the portrait of them painted by Cedric Morris in 1935 (National Museum of Wales - see above) offended them so much that they never wanted to see it again once he had shown it to them.
I was also going to write more about some of the contemporaries and friends of the Two Roberts but I see that Richard Warren (see blog links opposite) has already done a wonderful job here.