Capital studio to display rare John Bellany prints

John Bellany pictured in November 2012. Picture: Ian Rutherford
John Bellany pictured in November 2012. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A COLLECTION of rarely seen prints by John Bellany will go on display in a celebration of his life.

John Bellany: A Life in Print will showcase the legendary painter’s work with Edinburgh Printmakers at its Union Street base.

The artist – who died last month “clutching a paint brush in his hand as he took his final breath” – spent four decades working with the studio, producing more than 60 print ­editions.

The display, opening to the public next month, will feature a collection of his art which often drew upon his life in Port Seton.

Co-curator Sarah Manning-Shaw said the studio was keen to pay its own tribute to John, who died aged 71.

She said: “John is known for his drawings and watercolours but he was one of our most long-standing and prolific ­artists.

“We have been publishing with John for over 40 years in print and we all wanted to do this exhibition here to celebrate his life and art. He was a lovely man and very warm and accommodating.

“It is the first time this collection of work has been brought together so I think people will love to see it.

“The exhibition will show all aspects of his work, from the 1970s right through to the 1990s. It even shows prints of him back when he was having his liver transplant. He didn’t even stop then, he was still doing self-portraits from his hospital bed.”

The prints were commissioned and published by Edinburgh Printmakers. A selection from its archives appears in the exhibition. The majority were produced by the then master printer Alfons Bytautas.

Alfons said he loved John’s “emotionally-charged work,” often based on experiences growing up in East Lothian.

He said: “He succeeded in creating a highly personal mythology, blending both fact and fiction and populating it with the tragic figures of fisher-folk, animals – both real and imaginary – and thinly-disguised self-portraits.”

Born in Port Seton in 1942, much of Bellany’s work is said to draw inspiration from his coastal roots. He studied painting at Edinburgh College of Art in the 1960s before moving to London to study at the Royal College of Art.

His paintings feature in galleries including the National Galleries of Scotland, Tate Britain in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The exhibition will run from October 12 to November 9.