widely-acknowledged artist which the Academy has produced is Robert
Colquhoun who was a pupil from 1927 until 1933. His school record, still
preserved in Kilmarnock Academy, was adequate but by no means brilliant.
It was, however, in Art that he shone, his marks in the subject steadily
rising as he progressed through the school. Even as a pupil his command
of his medium was exceptional - a lino-cut done in S5 appeared in the
Goldberry in 1931 and a line drawing produced in S6 in 1963. An early
influence on him was his Art teacher at Kilmarnock Academy, Mr J. Lyle.
Colquhoun won a scholarship to the Glasgow School of Art and he later
studied in Italy, France, Holland and Belgium.
-wash drawing 1933 (in 6th Year)
he and his partner, fellow-Ayrshire painter Robert McBride, enjoyed
playing the rôle of bohemian Scots. Colquhoun was injured when
on ambulance service in World War II. Returning to Britain in 1941,
he moved to London with McBride. There he was friendly with a number
of prominent figures in literary and artistic circles such as Dylan
Thomas and Wyndham Lewis.
style during the post-war era was heavily influenced by English and
continental models. Like the English painter Francis Bacon, Colquhoun's
vision is a tortured, nihilistic one. His paintings show grief-laden,
agonised figures. The distortion which his paintings of this period
show was strongly influenced by Picasso: like Picasso, Colquhoun used
mask-like faces to express powerfully the fears of the twentieth century.
Colquhoun's is a profoundly modern art
obituary appeared in the Goldberry, the school magazine in 1963:
ago, in September, one of Kilmarnock Academy's most distinguished former
pupils, Robert Colquhoun died. It is a pity that it had to be the occasion
of his death that brought his work to our attention. A posthumous exhibition
to some of his paintings and monotypes was staged at the Dick Institute
Colquhoun was born in Kilmarnock in 1914. From an early age his artistic
talent was recognised, during the six years when he was a pupil of Kilmarnock
Academy, he was encouraged in every way by the late Mr. J. Lyle. Several
of his drawings were published in "Goldberry" during the years
winning a scholarship to Glasgow school of Art in 1933 he further distinguished
himself by winning a post-diploma award for an additional year at the
school, and a travelling scholarship to Italy. It was at this point
in his career he met Robert MacBryde, with whom he remained firm friends
until his untimely death. MacBryde accompanied him to London and there
his acquaintances included Michael Ayrton, Dylan Thomas, Jankel Adler
and Wyndham Lewis. Many literary contemporaries influenced him. His
breadth in art mirrored the breadth of argument which he must have enjoyed
with his fellow artists. He was commissioned by several writers to illustrate
their works, while both he and MacBryde designed the décor and
the costumes for the Scottish ballet "Donald of the Burthens"
produced at Covent Garden, and "King Lear" at Stratford. He
experimented with monotypes and saw the possibilities of this medium
and his work in it shows how uniquely he developed it.
to London in 1941 and although he lived and worked there until his death
he never forgot his early visual experiences of Ayrshire and Kilmarnock.
He was greatly influenced by this countryside, this strongly coloured
landscape of dairy farms, deep lush country and sparse woodlands, with
the particularly light and colour along the Ayrshire coast. he was faithful
to all this in his early work. His study of farm labourers and workmen,
which no doubt came directly from his early experiences are full of
conviction and feeling,. Robert Colquhoun had complete mastery of handling.
He worked beautifully with a perfectly fluent and precise instinct and
in this he was a typical product of both Glasgow School of Art and Mr.
seeing Colquhoun's later paintings, his work seems cold and austere.
However, with familiarity the beauty of his shapes, his superb draughtsmanship
and his feeling for line soon became apparent. His human figures, in
mute alignment, seem to be performers in a ritual drama, rather than
people living a life of their own. His best oil paintings have real
feeling in them and an absolutely genuine tragic grandeur.
impact of Robert Colquhoun's work should be an inspiration to every
pupil of Kilmarnock Academy. No matter where our talents lie, his intensity
of purpose and singlemindedness should serve as an example to us all.
It is only fitting that some of his best work should be on permanent
exhibition in his hometown, here in Kilmarnock. Colquhoun's work will
undoubtedly last and find an honourable place in the unfolding history
of British art.
(1963), p.52. ©Kilmarnock Academy