John Bellany (18 June 1942 – 28 August 2013) is one of the most influential Scottish painters since the war, and he has re-established a native, figurative art at a time when Modernism and abstraction seems invincible.
Born at Port Seton in 1942 into a family of fishermen and boat builders and steeped in Calvinism as a child, his art is profoundly religious in its intimation of morality and recognition of evil; facts reinforced in 1967 by a traumatic visit to the remains of the Buchenwald concentration camp. But Bellany’s life voyage has proven every bit as perilous as the sea voyage of his ancestors.
Throughout his career he has painted elemental allegories encompassing the complexities of the human condition and anchored in the rich poetry of the sea; but after moving to London in 1965 to study at the Royal College of Art, his vision and the iconography became broader. In the seventies when his personal life was in turmoil, he embarked on a near-fatal journey of self-destruction, which is reflected in the angst ridden images in his paintings of the period.
His paintings are in the collections of major museums and art galleries throughout the world, including the National Gallery of Scotland, The Tate Gallery, The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Metropolitan Museum, New York.