John Bellany

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File:Artwork Time and the Raven.jpg
Time and the Raven. Oil on Canvass
Self-portrait, (from 'The Addenbrookes Hospital Series'), 1988

John Bellany, CBE, RA, (18 June 1942 – 28 August 2013) was a Scottish painter.

Early life

Bellany was born in Port Seton. His father and grandfather were fishermen in Port Seton and Eyemouth near Edinburgh.

During the early 1960s, he studied at Edinburgh College of Art, here he met with other young Scottish artists to begin lifelong friendships and share ideals for a renaissance in Scottish arts. His contemporaries included Alan Bold and Alexander Moffat. Bellany and Moffat studied under Robin Phillipson. Their initial interest was in impressionism but with their common Scottish ancestry they looked toward Alan Davie as a connection to a greater but more accessible artistic world.

After his studies at Edinburgh, Bellany achieved a major travelling scholarship and traveled around Europe discovering how the traditions of the great northern European masters could be connected to his own Scottish experience. After this he would marry Helen Percy and move to attend the Royal College of Art in London.[1][2]

In 1967 he was invited to a trip to East Germany. In Dresden he viewed Otto Dix's War triptych.[citation needed]


In 1968 Bellany graduated and his diploma show was hailed as great success. Many of the paintings from this and the earlier periods are now in public institutions as well as various national galleries. After graduation, Bellany was offered a teaching position at the Edinburgh College of Art but he carried on as a working artist and flit between various teaching jobs at different art colleges.[citation needed]

He was elected to The London Group in 1973

When in 1974 he separated from his wife his art appears to take on a darker tone. The symbolism increases and it seems as though each picture can have a whole narrative of symbols within it, increasingly the pictures become wilder and wilder tending more to expressionism, at this point he suffered a nervous breakdown and returned to Port Seton for recuperation.[3]

Between 1973-78 Bellany had been head of faculty of painting at Croydon College of Art and had met Juliet Lister who he later married. In 1982 he was offered a show in New York which exhibited some of his earlier work.[citation needed] He lectured at Goldsmith's College from 1978 to 1984.[4]

In 1984, following an impromptu holiday in France with his first wife and family he was diagnosed with liver disease, an consequence of his alcoholism. He abstained for the rest of his life but the damage had been done.[citation needed]

In 1985 his father and second wife Juliet died. A retrospective was arranged for the National Gallery of Modern Art. The exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery included a portrait of the cricketer Sir Ian Botham. This portrait attracted more publicity for Bellany than he had ever previously achieved.[citation needed]

In 1986, he re-married his first wife Helen. The liver disease was becoming unmanageable and by the end of 1987 it was clear death was near.[citation needed]

In 1988 Bellany was operated on for a then relatively new liver transplant procedure, this also inspired works.[5] Carried out at Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge by Sir Roy Calne, Bellany not only survived but started to paint within hours of the operation - first producing a portrait of the nurse caring for him, then going on to produce a set of pictures known as the Addenbrooke's series.[citation needed]

In 2003 Damien Hirst came out as an admirer of Bellany and bought several of his works as well as praising him as one of the major painters of the twentieth century.[citation needed]

In 2005 he suffered a heart attack. He died in 2013.[citation needed]


Bellany's work is included in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Metropolitan Museum, New York and Tate Britain, London.[citation needed]

He is buried on the south side of the main entrance path in Dean Cemetery on the west side of Edinburgh.[citation needed]

The National Gallery of Scotland held a major exhibition of his work, "John Bellany: A Passion for Life", shortly after his death, November 2012 - January 2013.[6]

Notable public works



  1. "Artist John Bellany dies at 71". BBC News. 29 August 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Interview: John Bellany, artist". The Scotsman. 21 March 2010. Retrieved 29 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Interview: John Bellany, artist" Retrieved 1 July 2015
  4. [1]
  5. Mansfield, Susan (12 November 2012). "John Bellany: The resurrection man". The Scotsman. Retrieved 29 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links