Born in Port Seton, John was a grandson of a fisherman. He trained at Edinburgh College of Art in 1960 – 65 and then attended the Royal College of Art 1965 – 68. John Bellany’s monumental paintings of the 1960’s are amongst the most powerful and recognisable Scottish works of the Post War Period, and assured his reputation beyond his homeland.
Six or seven years Ago Alexander Moffat and Allan Riach were working on the book Arts of Resistance. They asked John Bellany for his permission to reproduce his little etching of Milne’s Bar in Edinburgh. One week later John Bellany phoned and told them to forget the etching, I have just done a painting for you! This is the painting.
When Alexander Moffat (features in the painting) was asked to comment on the painting he said. ‘This version certainly bathes Milne’s Bar in wonderfully warm Italianate colours, John Tonge (Author of the Art of Scotland, 1938) in the background with his walking stick, Bob Watt was the manager of the Bar, a rather staid Presbyterian figure, who kept everyone in order…his word was law. A slim Alan Bold features centre stage and Betty Smith was my girlfriend in those far off days. The artist himself in his best corduroy suit seems to be keeping a low profile which was never the case. Picasso was our hero… he had to be there with us. We often had imaginary conversations with him’