John Bellany is the most influential Scottish painter since the Second World War, re-establishing a narrative, figurative art at a time when Modernism and abstraction seemed invincible. Born at Port Seton in 1942 into a family of fisherman and boat builders, and steeped in Calvinism as a child, his art is profoundly religious in its intimation of mortality 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 proved every bit as perilous as the sea voyages of his ancestors. 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 iconography became broader. In the 1970s, 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. In the '80s, he successfully underwent a liver transplant, which inspired a remarkable series of pictures started, to the astonishment of his surgeon, within hours of regaining consciousness.
Bellany's towering example has inspired a new pride in Scottish artists: a fact duly recognised in 1994 when he received the CBE. 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.
John McEwan, author and critic, was born in 1942 in the Scottish Borders. He has written a number of acclaimed art books, including monographs of Paula Rego, Michael Sandle and the late William Gear.