John Bellany  (Scottish, 1942-2013) 

John Bellany (Scottish, 1930–2013) was born in Port Seton, a fishing village on the east coast of Scotland in 1942. The son of a hard working fisherman father and a strict Calvinistic mother, his upbringing influenced the core of his work throughout his life. Growing up in a community where faith was important in maintaining a loving, secure family ingrained a sense of morality in him.

Bellany studied at Edinburgh College of Art (1960–1965) and the Royal College of Art, London (1965–1968). There, he took inspiration from the Old Masters, always looking at the wider historical picture. His traumatic visit to Buchenwald concentration camp in 1967 changed the nature of his paintings for the next decade.

He took various teaching positions at Croydon College of Art, Brighton College of Art, Winchester College of Art, the Royal College of Art, and Goldsmiths College. However, his passion had always been painting.

The underlying themes of his work stayed consistent throughout his life; particularly those which questioned mortality and the fragility of life. Bellany was confronted by this subject in the late 1980s when he underwent a liver transplant operation after years of suffering from liver failure due to alcoholism. Post-operation, Bellany’s work became more optimistic, celebrating the joys of living. Trips to China, Italy, and Mexico also fostered optimism.

The iconography in Bellany’s paintings is the main point of focus, though he didn’t want this to constrain what could be interpreted by the viewer, saying, “I’ve learned over the years that it’s very, very stupid to talk about the content of the paintings because once the artist says ‘this means x or y’ that’s it forever and it doesn’t give the viewer any scope for their imagination.” Symbolism is a very emotional and intuitive form of imagery, allowing the viewer to have an individual, personal understanding of the painting. Bellany’s awareness of this played an important role in his international success.

Bellany's work received numerous awards, and he held major international exhibitions in Boston, Dublin, New York, and Warsaw. He was honored with the first one-man show ever to be held at the National Portrait Gallery in London (1986), the center piece being a portrait of the cricketer Ian Botham, which was commissioned by the gallery. Bellany was awarded a CBE (1994), and holds honorary degrees from the Universities of Edinburgh (1996) and Heriot-Watt (1998). He was elected RA in 1991 (ARA 1986), Honorary Member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1986, and in 1998, was made a Senior Fellow of the Royal College of Art, London. John Bellany died in Safron Walden, Essex, UK.

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John Bellany, Macduff


John Bellany

Beaux Arts
John Bellany, Gutters


John Bellany

Beaux Arts
John Bellany, Haunted Soul


John Bellany
Haunted Soul

Beaux Arts
John Bellany, Death and The Maiden


John Bellany
Death and The Maiden

Beaux Arts
John Bellany, Venus I


John Bellany
Venus I
John Bellany, Time will Tell


John Bellany
Time will Tell

John Bellany, Untitled


John Bellany
Beaux Arts
John Bellany, Enigmatic Vision


John Bellany
Enigmatic Vision
Beaux Arts
John Bellany, Mexico


John Bellany
Beaux Arts
Past auction results (1066)  View All
John Bellany, Lovers by the Sea


John Bellany
Lovers by the Sea, 1993
oil on canvas


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John Bellany, Fishing boat, Leith


John Bellany
Fishing boat, Leith
oil on canvas


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John Bellany, Woman and stingray


John Bellany
Woman and stingray


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1942   Born in Port Seton, Scotland
1960 - 1965   Edinburgh College of Art
1965 - 1968   Royal College of Art, London
1968   Lecturer in Painting, Brighton College of Art
1969 - 1973   Lecturer in Painting, Winchester College of Art
Visiting Lecturer at Royal College of Art and Goldsmiths' College of Art
1983   Artist in Residence, Victoria College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia
1978 - 1984   Lecturer in Painting, Goldsmiths' College of Art
1988   Elected Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge
1994   Awarded CBE by Her Majesty The Queen
2013   Died in Safron Walden, Essex, UK
2004   Birds, Flowers Graphics, Flowers East, London
2003   Master Stock List, New York
2003   Modern Masters From Archives, Flowers Graphics
2003   Figure in Print, Flowers Graphics
2003   Flowers Central Summer Group Show
2002   Flowers West, Santa Monica
2001   12 British Painters, Flowers East, London
1997   British Figurative Art – Part I: Painting, Flowers East
1995   John Bellany - New Paintings, John Bellany - Print-Maker, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh
Realism, Kunstlersondebud of Deutscheland, Berlin
1994   Recent Paintings, Flowers East at London Fields, London
1993   Contemporary Trends in British Art, Hayward Gallery, London
John Moores Exhibition 18, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
1992   A Long Night's Journey into Day - A 50th Birthday Tribute, Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvingrove
New British Art, Denmark (British Council Exhibition)
1991   Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
1989   John Bellany-A Renaissance, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh
Scottish Paintings since 1900, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; Barbican Art Gallery, London
1988 - 1989   Hamburger Kunsthalle and Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund
1987   Recent Acquisitions, National Portrait Gallery, London
1986   Serpentine Gallery, London
1984   The Hard Won Image, Tate Gallery, London
1977   25 Years of British Painting, Royal Academy, London
1974   British Painting '74, Hayward Gallery, London
1999    Scotland's Art, catalogue, Edinburgh City Art Centre
1997    Tamasin Doe, Portrait artists, The London Evening Standard 17 January
William Packer, Battery of beasts and symbols, Financial Times, 22 August
1994    John Slyce, John Bellany, 1994, Mainstream, London
Under the influence of genius, Alison Roberts, The Times, 21 March
1993    Contemporary Painting in Scotland, edited by Bill Hare, The Concise Catalogue of Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Scottish Painters, Sue Hubbard, Time Out, September
John Bellany, Art Review, October
1992    A Long Night's Journey into Day: The Art of John Bellany, catalogue
1986    John Bellany, catalogue, Scottish National Gallery