[§] JOHN BELLANY C.B.E., R.A., H.R.S.A. (SCOTTISH 1942-2013)
PORTRAIT OF AN "OLD BIDDY"
Oil on canvas laid on board
73cm x 54cm (28.75in x 21.25in)
Estimate £ 5,000-7,000
Provenance: Purchased directly from the artist
Note: John Bellany was one of the most acclaimed Scottish artists of his generation. He is best known for depicting the lives of fishing communities along the east coast of Scotland as this is where he spent his childhood. In 1960 he began studying at the Edinburgh College of Art and later went on to study at the Royal College of Art, London.
His artwork is almost entirely figural, with many of his portraits being of family members or female figures. Themes of Christianity, mortality and sin are seen throughout his paintings especially during the 1970's, when the influence of alcohol resulted in a period of self-destruction in Bellany's life.
Mortality and the flawed nature of humanity are common tropes and this early work from c.1968 is redolent with eerie undertones. Alexander Moffat, the close friend and artistic peer of Bellany, suggests that this particular painting may be based on one of the characters they met drinking in the pubs of Rose Street, Edinburgh during their student days together. Referring to them as "old biddys", Bellany loved imagining other people's lives and enjoyed making up stories to incorporate into his art.
Like most of his portraits produced in the late 1960's and early 70's the background is very plain, comprising one flat plane of colour and some shadowing. Many of his elderly figures or "old biddys" wear a simple cloak and, in this case, an elaborate hat, again focussing the viewer's attention on the sitter's ageing face.
Bellany's work is included in major museums and art galleries across the world, including Tate, London, The Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the National Galleries of Scotland. The late David Bowie, whose art collection caused such a stir when it recently came on the market, was a great supporter and collector of Bellany's, reportedly once stating his top three painters to be "Tintoretto, Beckmann, Bellany".