One of the most important Scottish contemporary artists of his generation, John Bellany has died age 71. Bellany was born in Port Seton in East Lothian in 1942. He studied at the Edinburgh College of Art and then at the Royal College of Art, London. He was recognised internationally for his figurative, landscape and still lifes. Bellany was elected a Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in 1988, a Royal Academician in 1991, and awarded a CBE in 1994. His work has been the subject of numerous articles and documentaries and can be seen in public collections in Britain and the USA.
First Minister Alex Salmond paid tribute to the painter as “one of Scotland’s finest artists” and an “outstanding” person.
A statement on his official website read: “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of a true Scottish giant. “At seventeen minutes past seven on the evening of Wednesday August 28 John passed away, in his studio, surrounded by his family. “He was clutching a paint brush in his hand as he took his final breath. “His passion was life and he painted as if each day was his last.”
Born into a family of fishermen and boat builders, John Bellany grew up in a Calvinist community on the east coast of Scotland. From 1960 to 1965 he studied at Edinburgh College of Art, where he perfected his drawing and painting skills with Sir Robin Phillipson. Bellany continued his studies with Carel Weight and Peter de Francia at the Royal Academy of Art. Following graduation from the Royal College of Art in 1968, Bellany taught at Brighton College of Art and then Winchester College of Art. He was appointed lecturer in Painting at Goldsmiths College of Art, a post he held until 1984. Bellany had his first international solo exhibition at Rosa Esman Gallery in New York in 1982. This led to a string of exhibitions around the world and then a major show at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 1986. The first solo exhibition ever held at the National Portrait Gallery, it centred around Bellany’s portrait of the English cricketer Sir Ian Botham, a work the gallery commissioned in 1985.
Bellany moved to Italy after a period of ill health. His family said he died on Wednesday evening, in his studio, with a paint brush in his hand.