Born: September 18, 1950;

Died: January 17, 2021.

BRIAN McQuade, who has died at the age of 71, was a wanderer, an artist and a well-loved community figure.

An unlikely figure to reach the heights of arts academia that he did, Brian was born into a Govan family in 1950 and left school early. He took on a job in Glasgow Corporation’s cleansing department, despite his brother Jimmy’s insistence he join him in more lucrative employment as an engineer.

He declined and took to educating himself in his spare time on the great artists of history, the study of which would keep him occupied for the rest of his life. It culminated in the publication, in 2013, of his self-published book, The Seven Painters Who Changed The Course Of Art History, among them Goya, Hogarth and Caravaggio.

“I’m not interested in making money,” he said at the time. “I am more keen about getting the ideas in the book across. My book on Lavery made waves and I hope this one will, too.

“It was a joy to do – I loved doing all that research to get to the man behind the artist. I hope future authors will look at my book and say, ‘This is the correct version of the facts’. I hope it will teach researchers to look just that bit closer.

“But, mostly, it would be great if it could influence more people to appreciate these painters, and their paintings, even more.”

His earlier book on Lavery, the Glasgow Boy artist, disclosed that Lavery had, contrary to his heated denials at the time, used a photograph as a basis for his painting of Queen Victoria opening Glasgow’s Great Exhibition in 1888.

“The art world at that time,” said Brian, “was really suspicious of photography. That painting made Lavery’s fame and fortune. If he’d admitted using a photograph, it would have almost have been on a par with admitting that he’d cheated.”

His friend Steven Gilfoyle, the head of Sunny Govan, the community radio station McQuade helped to found, said he would save his royalties and go on spontaneous jaunts to Italy.

“He would head off to Italy for a week now and then. He would go to all the museums because that’s what he loved. I bet he would go over and sleep on benches but he’d be sure to go and explore the arts and history then come back to talk to us about it on the radio.”

Brian hosted a long-running arts and culture programme on Sunny Govan and through it he was able to spread his passion for painting and drawing with a mainstream audience.

Mr Gilfoyle said: “He brought Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet to a lot of people. He’d talk about people we’d heard the names of but didn’t really know a lot about. He’d break it down for listeners, tell some of their stories and what happened to them, and made it relatable to people.”

Despite what Brian’s brother, Jimmy Thom, and Gilfoyle agree to have been his “chequered past” and struggles with alcoholism, he was a learned man, obtaining two degrees in art history after going to university in his 30s.

Mr Gilfoyle said: “He talked candidly about these things but also with a sense of humour, which let us know you can survive these things.

“He would go through ups and downs at various points in his life and sometimes we wouldn’t see him for a few weeks, then he’d be back and then away again. Each time we would worry about him a wee bit more.”

In 2008, Brian told how he had been raised in Govan by his mother and grandmother, alongside his two sisters and three brothers, plus an ever-shifting collection of in-laws.

“At one time there were 13 of us in the house,” he said, “including a lassie from across the road who came to stay just for the night and ended up living with us for about five years.”

He worked with the cleansing department then on the motorways for a few years, before going to Italy for a few months. “I went to Rome then to Naples, and then I moved to Paris. All the time, I was watching painters there, talking to them.

“I was just working in wee shops, and I was doing a lot of thieving and begging, things like that. So I was moving about a lot, but with me it was always art, art, art – I was always drawing, always painting. I was going to free art classes everywhere I went.”

In 2008, he produced a series of paintings of film stars, including Michael Caine, Audrey Hepburn and James Dean.

“He had friends at all levels of society. He had friends who were authors, journalists and actors, and some who relied on soup kitchens,” said Mr Gilfoyle. “Being a man who looked like he did, people wouldn’t have respected Brian as an artist, but he let us see the artist in everyone else. It’s hard to get people to believe in you if you’re from Govan, but he got us to believe in each other.”

Jimmy Thom, 81, remembers his younger brother as someone who lived a “full life” over the years of his painting and interest in the arts. He said the most fitting way to commemorate a creative man so well loved and remembered by the people of Govan would be to have what he considered to be Brian’s masterpiece hang in the Pearce Institute.

“It’s called Angels In A Purple Sky and, to me, it’s a beautiful piece of work. I used to wind him and say don’t be so stupid, how do you get a purple sky? He’d say, Jimmy, it was a phenomenon in the 16th century, it was some freak storm and it turned the sky purple.

“And it turned out he was right”.