John Bellany, CBE, RA was a Scottish painter of international repute. His reputation is based upon his painterly handling of oil and watercolour, his exceptional engraving and his use of colour. Bellany was born and raised in a fishing village called Port Seton near Edinburgh, and the scenes of his work is often derived from the sea, although it is transformed into a kind o...f personal mythology of the artist. Bellany’s artworks are deeply religious in its intimation of mortality and recognition of evil. This imagery is reinforced by the artists traumatic visit to the remains of the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1967. Along with Scottish poets including Hugh MacDiarmid and Alan Bold, the group of youthful idealists aimed to produce figurative painting and expressive poetry that portrayed a contemporary Scotland, whilst embracing its national heritage. Bellany's practice was inspired by his love of poetry and relationships with his fellow creatives.
The artist holds his place in the art world as an expressionist who flows within the mainstream of European Modern Art. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art under Sir Robin Phillipson from 1960 to 1965. During this time he gained an Andrew Grant Scholarship in 1962, taking him to Paris and in 1965 he received a Postgraduate Travelling Scholarship which took him to Holland and Belgium.
He went on to attend the Royal College of Art, London, where he studied under Carel Weight and Peter de Francia from 1965 to 1968.
Bellany's paintings are generally figurative and strive for simplicity. The message within them is detailed, depicting the inter-dependence of man and nature. His characteristic paintings are large created using his own personal symbolism, often derived from the sea and from religion, dominant two elements of the artists childhood. The flawed nature of humanity was usually central to his paintings. In the 70s, when his personal life was at an all time low, he embarked on a near-fatal journey of self-destruction, which is reflected in the angst-ridden images in his paintings of this time in his career. During the 80s, he successfully underwent a liver transplant, inspiring his next remarkable series of paintings, to the shock of his surgeon, within hours of regaining consciousness from the operation.
His first international solo exhibition was held at Rosa Esman Gallery, New York in 1982 and this quickly led to a string of exhibitions around the world. He is represented in many major public galleries, including MoMa, New York, The Tate and the National Portrait Gallery and shortly before his death was given a major retrospective in the National Gallery of Scotland.