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Scottish Painters (1959)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Scottish painters Robert MacBryde and Robert Colquhoun ride a horse-drawn cart laden with canvases into a Suffolk village, where their new studio is based. It's close enough to London for sales purposes, and cheap enough at a pound a week to let them paint full-time.

They're both interested in human figures, but MacBryde's passion for shape and form always leads him back to still life, cutting vegetables in half to find specific shades of yellow. He prefers to rely on natural arrangements of the various things that he paints, rather than relying on predetermined patterns.

MacBryde's human figures are compared with his still lifes, revealing the same preoccupation with form. He says that he'd like to try other things, as he's observed new shapes in his garden: a trellis, pruned roses. But how would he approach painting these while remaining true to himself?

By contrast, former draughtsman Colquhoun is far more interested in people, especially those who loom large in his memories of childhood in Scotland. He regularly makes use of female figures, not necessarily conventionally attractive ones. For him, the human figure is endlessly fascinating, capable of infinite variation.

He ruefully acknowledges that no matter how long he works at a painting, he's always conscious that there may be some blind spot that prevents him from noticing even fundamental flaws - and criticism from his fellow painter is, in some way, like restoring his sight.

MacBryde and Colquhoun will continue to work here until they find an even cheaper studio. When that happens, they'll load up the cart with their essentials, and set off once more.