Born in West Hartlepool, County Durham, Beattie attended the West Hartlepool College of Art from 1950 until 1955. He continued his education at the Royal Academy schools from 1957 until 1961. He then began a long teaching career: during the 1980s and 1990s, Beattie taught at Goldsmiths College in London. He retired from the role in 1998, spending a further year as assessor at the Chelsea School of Art.
He was shortlisted for the Jerwood Painting Prize in both 1998 and 2001, in addition to the Charles Woolaston Prize in 2000. An exhibition of paintings produced from the 1990s was held at Tate Britain in 2007 and his works are part of the Tate permanent collection.
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