John Bellany | A Passion for Life

  • 17th November 2012 − 27th January 2013 | Academy (Scottish National Gallery) | £7 (£5)

The 1960s

When Bellany first entered Edinburgh College of Art in 1960, the Scottish Colourist tradition was still the dominant strand in Scottish painting, although internationally abstraction was very much in vogue. Bellany rejected both. He wanted to create an art that was firmly based on the achievements - in drawing as well as painting - of the Old Masters, but brought up to date by the great modern Realists, such as Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) and Fernand Léger (1881-1955).

He wanted his art to focus on the everyday life he knew, especially the fisherfolk and boats from Port Seton, Cockenzie and Eyemouth, the ports on the Firth of Forth where he grew up. It was the heroism of ordinary people that he wanted to celebrate in large, monumental paintings, some of which he displayed on the railings outside this very building on the Mound: a direct challenge to the Establishment.