Collection: Bob Hyde

Memories of Bob Hyde by author Len Deighton.

I first met Bob Hyde at St Martin's School of Art. It was 1950 and we had served in the RAF and been lucky enough to have secured ex-servicemen's grants for further study. We weren't the only ex-servicemen there, and the presence of so many 'mature students' - many of them with wives and children to support - made the art school a very serious environment.


Confronted with students so determined to learn, the teachers were kept on their toes. In my class the ex-servicemen included a Polish general, a decorated British Chindit officer who had fought through the Burma jungle, and a Polish ex-soldier who had escaped from a German prisoner of war camp and made his way through the Middle East to England. These were not the sorts of people who could be bamboozled by incompetent instructors.

They were a colourful bunch and those of us who had done no more than a couple of years of National Service were inclined to be in awe of them. Bob's time in the RAF had been spent serving in a mountain rescue team and he was a tough individual well able to endure the penny-pinching, rationed and everyday hardships of London in the fifties. I have never met anyone more dedicated to his work but we were both partygoers too. Looking back it is hard to reconcile Bob's taciturn, and even somewhat shy, character with the way he was to be found at all the best parties skilfully playing guitar and singing softly in his hoarse smoker's voice.

Bob Hyde was an exceptionally talented student of the painting school but for those of us who were motivated by the need to earn a living after art school, the fine arts seemed a perilous path. Bob was made of sterner stuff. Cezanne was Bob's favoured painter and, when we shared a small flat, it was a print of Cezanne's 'The Card Players' that hung on the wall of the kitchen where we spent so much time cooking, laughing, eating and talking.

I couldn't say that Bob talked about painting to the exclusion of everything else, in fact he didn't get into the sort of earnest discussion about art that was going on all around us. Bob was the sort of painter who painted rather than talked. When, having graduated from St Martin's School of Art, he became a waiter at the Studio Club it was because he didn't have to start work until early evening, and so had the daylight hours in which to paint. And yet, when at about that timeI introduced him to someone as a 'painter', he corrected me and said: 'No, I'm a waiter'. I admired him for that response and remembered it ever after. It demonstrated the depth of self-discipline and determination that was the essence of his character. I have no doubt at all that had Bob Hyde not died so tragically young he would have become a major talent in today's art world.

Image: Bob Hyde in 1951 by Len Deighton