MacBryde was born in Maybole and worked in a factory for 5 years after leaving school. He studied art at Glasgow School of Art from 1932 to 1937. There, he met Robert Colquhoun with whom he established a lifelong gay relationship and professional collaboration, the pair becoming known as "the two Roberts". MacBryde studied and travelled in France and Italy, assisted by scholarships, returning to London in 1939. He shared studio space with Colquhoun, and the pair shared a house with John Minton and, from 1943, Jankel Adler. MacBryde held his first one-person exhibition at the Lefevre Gallery in 1943.
Influenced by Graham Sutherland and John Piper, MacBryde became a well known painter of the Modernist school of art, known for his brightly coloured Cubist studies. His later work evolved into a darker, Expressionist range of still lifes and landscapes. In collaboration with Colquhoun, he created several set designs during and after the Second World War. These included sets for Gielgud's Macbeth, King Lear at tratford and Massine's Scottish ballet Donald of the Burthens, produced by the Sadler's Wells Ballet at Covent Garden in 1951. During the 1950s, both MacBryde and Colquhoun lost the attention of the art scene, and as both had become heavy drinkers, serious work became almost impossible. Since neither had any private means, they were reduced at times to near destitution.
Colquhoun died suddenly in 1962. Soon after MacBryde moved to Ireland, and for a time shared a house with the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh, with whom he had become friendly in London. However he was still drinking heavily and seems to have made no serious effort to paint again.
Robert MacBryde died in 1966 in Dublin as a result of a street accident. Anthony Cronin, a friend of MacBryde and Colquhoun, describes them both with affection and respect in his memoir Dead as Doornails.
Based on a Wikipedia article.
- http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/visual_arts/article7052387.ece Rachel Devine "Openly homosexual when it was still illegal to be so and gay people were actively persecuted, they made little attempt to disguise their relationship" Sunday Times 7 March 2010