Scottish National Gallery opens John Bellany. A Passion for Life

Scottish National Gallery presents John Bellany. A Passion for Life the largest, most comprehensive exhibition of work by one of Scotland’s greatest living artists on view 17 November 2012 – 27 January 2013.

John Bellany, Self-Portrait, 1966. Oil on board, 159.8 x 142 cm. Collection of the artist

John Bellany: A Passion for Life will bring together around 75 paintings, watercolours, drawings and prints from all the key periods of the artist’s remarkable fifty-year career. This will be the first retrospective of this scale in almost three decades; it will include many works that have rarely, if ever, been exhibited before.

The exhibition is funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, who have raised over £21m for charities and good causes to date. People’s Postcode Lottery Head of Charities Clara Govier commented: “This exhibition – a celebration of John Bellany’s 70th birthday – is a wonderful way to show the longstanding influence this artist has had not only internationally, but to local Scottish communities. We hope that the support from our players helps to ensure that this remarkable collection of works will go on to inspire further generations and communities.”

The exhibition will begin with canvases produced while Bellany was a student at Edinburgh College of Art in the early 1960s and culminate in a selection of his most recent landscape paintings, highlighting the significant themes and events that have fuelled his deeply personal art: a strict Calvinist upbringing, his rebellious beginnings and artistic influences, the unwavering belief that art should be grounded in the realities of life, his use of a complex personal symbolism, and his unflinching reflection upon his own tragedies and triumphs.

Bellany was born in 1942 in Port Seton, a close-knit fishing community 10 miles to the east of Edinburgh, and his painting is filled with imagery that derives from his close connection to the sea. His early canvases, painted on a monumental scale, were marked by an extraordinary ambition and self-confidence. These intensely felt paintings of fisherfolk and their precarious existence were a direct challenge to the decorative landscapes and still lifes that characterised much contemporary Scottish painting in the 1960s. During the Edinburgh Festivals of 1964 and 1965 Bellany and his colleague Sandy Moffat famously mounted their own outdoor exhibitions, hanging their paintings on the railings outside the Scottish National Gallery and Royal Scottish Academy. Almost half a century on, a number of early masterpieces from this rebellious period, including The Boat Builders (1962) and The Box Meeting, Cockenzie (1965) will make a triumphant return to the building.

Scottish National Gallery
The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL
Telephone. 0131 624 6200