Audio: Robert Colquhoun, Two Actors
Robert Colquhoun (1914-1962)
1 More
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more ANOTHER PROPERTY
Robert Colquhoun (1914-1962)

Two Actors

Robert Colquhoun (1914-1962)
Two Actors
signed and dated 'Colquhoun 46' (upper right), indistinctly signed again and inscribed '"TWO ACTORS"/ROBERT COLQUHOUN’ (on a torn label attached to the stretcher)
oil on canvas
25 x 19 in. (63.5 x 48.2 cm.)
with Lefevre Gallery, London.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

Brought to you by

Anne Haasjes
Anne Haasjes

Lot Essay

In the mid 1940s, the young Scot, Robert Colquhoun moved to the first rank of British painters with a series of powerful figure studies in tune with wartime austerity and isolationism. He had abandoned a neo-romantic style for a personal vision of the human condition derived from his Celtic roots, the angularity of cubism and the expressionist insights of Jankel Adler. Colquhoun's new work eschewed anecdote or incident with figures linked but strangely unconnected, seemingly absorbed in an inner life tantalisingly hinted at but never described, with anecdote titles which obscured rather than contributed meaning.

This new subject matter required a powerful technique which transcended traditional representation and whose surfaces hinted at the complexities and conflicts inherent in his everyman figures. His solution was to adapt the rigid facets and planes of cubism, rendering them with a plasticity and malleability best suited to human physiognomy. This technique would later be exploited brilliantly by Francis Bacon who exhibited alongside Colquhoun in 1946 at a Lefevre Gallery group show which also included Ben Nicholson, Graham Sutherland and Lucian Freud.

The present work melds the essential elements of Colquhoun's mature style and was painted in 1946, the high point of the artist's career. In the same year he painted a variant of this composition, The Fortune Teller, which is now in Tate Gallery. Robert Colquhoun shone in the company of artists now internationally acclaimed, he is represented by over 180 works in more than 50 major public collections across three continents, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The dominance of abstraction from the late 1940s and a distracting hedonistic lifestyle, brought to life in John Byrne's play, may have contributed to Colquhoun's decline relative to Bacon, Nicholson and Freud. More probably, it was the absence of key period works from the market owing to the artist's small output, much of which is in public collections. Robert Colquhoun's work is now becoming more accessible, he is the subject of a recent biography and a major Colquhoun and MacBryde retrospective opens in November 2014 at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

We are very grateful to Roger Bristow for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

Related Articles

View all
Spring fever auction at Christies

Spring fever

 Giuseppe Eskenazi: the world’ auction at Christies
Barometers: a collecting guide auction at Christies

More from Modern British & Irish Art Day Sale

View All
View All