Letters from the home front: the alternative war art of Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, 1940–1945

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The Scottish artists Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde worked through the Second World War, but as they practiced for the most part outside the patronage of the government’s War Artists Advisory Committee, they are not typically situated amongst the pantheon of British war artists. However, a number of un-commissioned war paintings and the artists’ personal correspondence from the early 1940s clearly position their practices as a direct response to the conflict. This article explores how MacBryde and Colquhoun’s experience of life on the home front as non-combatants and erstwhile pacifists in Britain informed their work during the Second World War. It looks at the extent to which their pacifist stance impacted on their practice; how their personal experiences of war, as documented in their letters, may be brought to bear on an analysis of their painting; and, more broadly, what nuanced deviations in style and subject can be seen between commissioned and non-commissioned war art in Britain during the Second World War. It concludes by considering how their work that does not explicitly deal with conflict as subject matter may nevertheless be positioned within an inclusive canon of war art.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages35
JournalBritish Art Studies
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2019


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