Robert Colquhoun lived from 20 December 1914 to 20 September 1962. He was an artist and theatre set designer. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Robert Colquhoun was born in Kilmarnock and attended Kilmarnock Academy. His talent for art was quickly recognised and he won a scholarship to the Glasgow School of Art. Here he met Robert MacBryde, and the two went on to become lifelong friends and artistic collaborators, becoming known as "the two Roberts". At the end of the 1930s, Colquhoun and MacBryde spent two years travelling widely together across Europe. At the start of the Second World War, Colquhoun became an ambulance driver with the Royal Army Medical Corps. An injury led to his being discharged from the army in 1941 and he joined Robert MacBryde, who had set up a studio in London. The two shared a house with fellow artists John Minton and Jankel Adler.
After the Second World War, the Two Roberts also worked together to produce a number of theatre set designs. They included sets for Sir John Gielgud's Macbeth; for a production of King Lear at Stratford on Avon; and for Massine's Scottish ballet Donald of the Burthens, produced by the Sadler's Wells Ballet at Covent Garden in 1951.
Colquhoun's early paintings had often featured agricultural labourers and workmen, and strongly reflected his native Ayrshire. During the 1930s and 1940s his work took on a more Expressionist style, that reflected heavily the influence of Picasso. For a decade from the end of the Second World War he was widely considered to be one of the leading artists in the country. By 1960, however, Robert Colquhoun's reputation had declined and when he died in London in 1962 it was as an alcoholic and in obscurity.