Art

Late Scottish artist's powerful sketches of homeless people discovered in attic after 30 years

Robert McKee's drawings of people homeless in Dundee in the early 90s have been unearthed and now they're on show on the city's streets

Robert McKee homelessness art in Dundee

Robert McKee's art is now back on the streets near Dundee's famous V&A museum after 30 years in his parents' attic. Image: Supplied

Robert McKee’s sketches of homeless men and women he got to know in Dundee in the early 90s have seen the light of day for the first time in 30 years.

McKee, who died in a diving accident at the age of 26 in 1994, spent time on the streets of the Scottish city capturing the people he met on canvas.

The McKee family unearthed the art and put it on show in November with more than 150 family and friends attending the exhibition at John Knox Church in his hometown of Stewarton, in Ayrshire.

Art by Robert McKee. Image: Supplied
Robert McKee homelessness art in Dundee
Art by Robert McKee. Image: Supplied

Change a Big Issue vendor’s life this Christmas by purchasing a Winter Support Kit. You’ll receive four copies of the magazine and create a brighter future for our vendors through Christmas and beyond.

Now, the work is on show in poster boards as part of the Nomas Project near to the V&A in Dundee until February – McKee learned his craft at Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art.

The art pieces have proven just as relevant 30 years on and raised £3,420 each for two charities close to McKee’s heart: homeless people charity Shelter and McMillan Cancer Support.

Robert McKee homelessness art in Dundee
Art by Robert McKee. Image: Supplied
Robert McKee homelessness art in Dundee
Art by Robert McKee. Image: Supplied

McKee’s friend Karen Cooper told the Big Issue: “Robert was very passionate about social justice issues and people who are homeless was obviously the real face of that.

“It was actually in his mum and dad’s attic. It was the classic, they put it away in his big portfolio and nobody had looked at it or 30 years. He was a really big character. He was a musician, a writer and an artist and a good looking guy too. He had a big group of friends who have grieved for him for 30 years. So the friends got together and said we’ve really got to do something about his work.”

Robert McKee
Robert McKee. Image: Supplied
Robert McKee homelessness art in Dundee
Robert McKee’s work went on show in his hometown of Stewarton in Ayrshire and was the first time some of his family had laid eyes on the art pieces. Image: Supplied

Bringing the artwork back into the light has offered a legacy to McKee after his life was cruelly cut short – but the process has also been an emotional one, according to Cooper.

Cooper added: “His brother and sister hadn’t seen all his work. It had very much been put away as a painful memory and stuck up in a box. So it was quite emotional for them to look through it for the first time.”

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Artist with autism uses drawing to make sense of the trauma of losing his home
Christopher Hoggins Roof-less eviction art book
RENTING

Artist with autism uses drawing to make sense of the trauma of losing his home

Acclaimed artist My Dog Sighs auctions off iconic painting to 'help those struggling and lost'
Art

Acclaimed artist My Dog Sighs auctions off iconic painting to 'help those struggling and lost'

'The image says it all': The meaning behind Banksy's new London tree mural, revealed
Art

'The image says it all': The meaning behind Banksy's new London tree mural, revealed

Artists pays tribute to Big Issue vendors in thought-provoking project: 'Ordinary moments go unnoticed'
Our Vendors

Artists pays tribute to Big Issue vendors in thought-provoking project: 'Ordinary moments go unnoticed'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know