John Bellany CBE RA HRSA LLD (1942 – 2013)

Earth gallery with a view of 'Journey to the End of the Night' 1972 by John Bellany, Glasgow Museums Collection
Earth gallery with a view of ‘Journey to the End of the Night’ 1972 by John Bellany, Glasgow Museums Collection

Glasgow Museums was saddened to hear of the passing of John Bellany on 29 August 2013.

John Bellany was one of the outstanding Scottish artists of the 20th century. His expressive figurative paintings influenced many painters who came after him. Glasgow Museums has 38 works in the collection by John including unique oils, works on paper and prints.

When GoMA opened in 1996 the north side of Gallery 2, then called the Water Gallery, was full of his work. This display included his powerful triptych Journey to the End of Night, oil on board, 1972. John was a son and grandson of fisherman from Port Seaton, Scotland. The Protestantism of this life is both challenged and reflected in this work which depicts extremes of terror and pleasure.

On the opposite wall hung five watercolors from John’s Addenbrooke Hospital series, these joyous and life affirming works were painted in his hospital bed in 1988 after a life saving liver operation.

In 2012 the astute private collectors Eric and Jean Cass gifted a Bellany painting Jean had commissioned for her husband Eric. This painting is titled “Dungeness” (1992) and was made to mark the gift of a life boat from Eric and Jean to the town.

I contacted John in 1999 to invite him to create an image of Jesus for the 21st century. A competitive competition won by the Glasgow sculptor Kenny Hunter. John graciously declined the invitation saying he would like to give the young ones a chance. Later he gifted a large oil painting to the collection, Untitled 1999. This seaside scene includes a crucifixion in the upper left area.

John was a talented and generous artist who will be missed but never forgotten. He lives on through his works and those in Glasgow Museum’s collection will be preserved for future generations to enjoy and admire.

Sean McGlashan

Curator of Contemporary Art
Glasgow Life/Glasgow Museums
Gallery of Modern Art

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