Still Life I

Robert MacBryde (1913 - 1966)



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  • About the work
    Country: Luxembourg
    City: Luxembourg
    Place: British Embassy
    This lithographic print is one of the last made by the Scottish artist Robert MacBryde, before his death in 1966. The work features cut fruit and objects, positioned on a table with ornate legs resembling miniature fluted Ionic columns; and with a top that appears foreshortened. MacBryde also worked as a set designer and the still life was a recurring interest in his practice. One of his most famous paintings, The Backgammon Player (c.1946, Glasgow Museums), prominently incorporates a still life. MacBryde was an alcoholic for most of his adult life, and in a biography of him and his life-long lover Robert Colquhoun, with whom he lived and worked,  Roger Bristow refers to this, mentioning how the artists were inebriated when making these prints, which led to ‘fundamental errors’. Bristow goes on to state that the letters of the ‘Braque-like’ word seen in the print were possibly a result of MacBryde becoming confused about using the mirror writing required when making prints with text. Bristow suggests that he may either have been trying to make the word ‘PAGE’ or that perhaps the letter ‘G’ was in fact an ornate ‘C’, which would make the word ‘CAPE’; a word printed on the fruit wrapper we see on the table.

    This print was commissioned by the art dealer Robert Erskine of St George’s Gallery, London, in 1960, who also commissioned three lithographs by Robert Colquhoun (1914–1962). Both artists made the prints at the Curwen Studio in East London under the supervision of master-printer Stanley Jones.

  • About the artist
    Robert MacBryde was born in Maybole, Ayrshire. After leaving school, he worked in a factory until 1933, going on to enrol at the Glasgow School of Art, where he met Robert Colquhoun. The two men became life-long lovers, living together at a time when homosexuality was illegal in Britain. Health issues meant MacBryde did not serve actively during the Second World War and his still life paintings received much critical acclaim in the 1940s, as did the work of his partner. The success of both men, however, waned in the 1950s. When evicted from their Soho studio, they moved together to rural Essex, after the writer Elizabeth Smart engaged them to take care of her children there, while she worked in London during the week. In 1951 they were commissioned to make stage and costume designs for a production in London. Both men were sociable characters but also heavy alcoholics, and were in worse health when they returned to London, some years later. Colquhoun’s sudden death in 1962 while preparing work for an upcoming exhibition was a devastating blow to MacBryde, who continued to drink heavily. He then lived between London and Ireland, relying on the support of friends such as Smart, the poet, George Barker and the artist, Francis Bacon. He died in a car accident in Dublin in 1966.
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  • Details
    Still Life I
    Purchased from Editions Alecto, March 1969
    below image: 10/30 / MacBryde
    GAC number