John Bellany

Scottish (1942 - 2013)
John Bellany My Father 1966 © The Estate of John Bellany. All Rights Reserved 2017/ Bridgeman Images


Born 1942
Died 2013
Nationality Scottish
Birth place Cockenzie

Bellany was born in the fishing village of Port Seton, near Edinburgh. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art and at the Royal College of Art, London. His work of the 1960s and 1970s dealt with original sin, guilt, sex and death. His characteristic paintings are large compositions featuring his own personal symbolism, often derived from the sea and from religion, two elements that dominated his childhood. The flawed nature of humanity was usually central to his paintings. Bellany became seriously ill in the 1980s and underwent a liver transplant operation in 1988, after which his work became more optimistic in mood.

Glossary terms

  • A form of printmaking in which a metal plate is covered with a substance called a 'ground', usually wax, into which an image is drawn with a needle. Acid is applied, eroding the areas of the plate exposed but not the areas covered by wax. The action of the acid creates lines in the metal plate that hold the ink from which a print is made when the plate is pressed against paper under pressure.

  • A print made from an image carved into a block of wood cut along the grain. Blank areas are cut away leaving an image in relief from which a print is made.

  • A print made by forcing ink through a screen on which a stencil is placed. Traditionally used for commercial printing, it has been taken up by artists since the 1960s when it was used extensively in Pop art.