The British art collector Frank Cohen is to present an exhibition of work by the late Scottish artist John Bellany who died in 2013. The works are drawn from his extensive private collection. The Fortnum’s X Frank series 17 runs from 18 September – 28 October at Fortnum & Mason the famous London emporium and is organised in collaboration with the Bellany Estate. The show will see 50 works by Bellany across the London store. Several will be displayed in windows on Piccadilly facing the Royal Academy.
When everyone was making abstracts and Pop paintings Bellany was creating amazing images – Frank Cohen
Taking a different approach this year, Fortnum’s X Frank 17 (FXF17) presents a timely reassessment of the work of Bellany and the unique contribution he made to contemporary British painting across five decades. Curated by Robert Upstone, former Director of The Fine Art Society and Head of Modern British Art at Tate, the exhibition will feature paintings from all periods of Bellany’s career and will be the largest exhibition of the artist’s work since his death in 2013.
David Bowie was an admirer, friend and major collector of John Bellany’s work, as highlighted in the recent Sotheby’s sale of Bowie’s collection. Bellany’s portrait of himself and Bowie, painted in 1988, is one of the highlights of the exhibition.
John Bellany (1942 – 2013) was born into the small fishing community of Seton in Scotland, dominated by the sea and rigid Calvinist faith. The fishing and boat-building culture of Bellany’s father and grandfathers remained a recurrent source of inspiration for him, against which his exploration of human experience was projected. He studied painting at the Edinburgh College of Art and the Royal College of Art. Rejecting the fashion for abstract, American influenced painting in the 1960s, Bellany instead embraced a figurative approach which engaged with the grand themes of life and death, good and evil. He held various positions as Lecturer in Painting, including at the Royal College of Art and Goldsmith’s. In 1986 he became the first living artist to ever have a solo show at the National Portrait Gallery. Bellany was elected RA in 1991 and was awarded a CBE in 1994.
This unique month-long collaboration takes place as the art establishment descends on London for the internationally celebrated Frieze Art Fair. Fortnum’s has a long-standing commitment to the arts, supporting generations of artists and designers through its connections with the Royal College of Art, the Slade School of Art and the Bloomsbury Group, including a recent installation by David Bailey in the iconic Piccadilly windows.
Frank Cohen said: “I have always loved John Bellany’s work. I have admired him intensely for years, and I am very excited now about this new exhibition. When everyone was making abstracts and Pop paintings Bellany was creating amazing images – revealing, ambitious and tough, distilling raw emotion onto the canvas. His great hero was Courbert, and he shares Courbet’s realism and sense of human sympathy.
I am delighted to continue my collaboration with Fortnum’s and have another opportunity to present works from my collection. I can’t think of a better setting for visitors to experience his wonderful paintings, and would like to thank the Bellany Estate for their support.”
Scottish artist John Bellany. Fortnum’s X Frank 17 (18 September – 28 October)