Robert MacBryde

Robert MacBryde (1913-1966) was a Maybole-born artist who was best known for his figurative paintings and still-life, as well as his work as a theatre set designer.   MacBryde's artistic career began when he gained entry into the Glasgow School of Art in 1932, after working for five years in a cement factory. At GSA, he met fellow Ayrshire-born artist Robert Colquhoun, with whom he embarked on a lifelong romantic and professional partnership. Together, MacBryde and Colquhoun were inseparable, and soon became known as 'The Two Roberts'.

In the late 1930s, Colquhoun was awarded the GSA's £120 travelling bursary. However, knowing that Colquhoun would split or share the money with MacBryde, the Chairman of the Governors at the school - Sir John Richmond - gave an equal sum to MacBryde out his own funds. The Two Roberts set out to travel and study together in France and Italy until the outbreak of WWII saw them return, where they settled in London.


In the bohemian urban centre of London, where they were renowned for their parties, the Two Roberts courted a large circle of friends, including Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Elizabeth Smart, George Barker, and Dylan Thomas. The pair also lived with artist John Minton, and after 1943, Jankel Adler. Adler became MacBryde and Colquhoun's mentor, and the Polish artist's Cubist influence can be seen in both of their work - for a time MacBryde was even nicknamed 'MacBraque' after Georges Braque.


MacBryde and Colquhoun rarely tended to work together up until this point, both preferring full control while consulting the other from time to time. However, the two did like to collaborate on theatrical design, including creating pieces for Leonide Massine's ballet Donald of the Burthens in 1951.


While in London, MacBryde and Colquhoun became sell-out sensations after solo exhibitions at the Lefevre Gallery, MacBryde's in 1943. A period of success followed, and 'The Golden Boys of Bond Street' reigned in glory during the 1940s. With their housemates Adler and Minton, they were infamous for their studio parties in London's Bedford Gardens. However with their success came the doubling down of bad habits - for The Two Roberts, their vice was alcohol. Friend Anthony Cronin in Dead as Doornails (1976) writes that "MacBryde had […] a capacity to abandon himself gently and totally to the drink, so that in the right company he achieved incandescence". Yet this luminescence burned into The Two Roberts' finances, and paired with the particular bad luck of their agent dropping dead, their stars began to wane as the years flashed into the 1950s.


The two were eventually evicted from their studio, and they relocated to Essex to look after the children of Elizabeth Smart and her partner George Barker, who offered them lodgings as a gesture of friendship. In 1962, Colquhoun succumbed to his years of hard drinking, followed four years later by MacBryde, who had moved to Dublin.


Despite their relative obscurity after their flash in the 1940s as 'the Golden Boys of Bond Street', in more recent years their legacy has saw them as two of the most influential artists of their generation.


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