Bellany’s oil painting is sold for £103,000

A RARE old oil painting by late County artist John Bellany sold for more than £100,000 at the Scottish Contemporary Art auction at McTear’s, five times its original estimate.

Mr Bellany, from Port Seton, who was 71 when he died in 2013, painted the work – The Finnon Smoker – in 1965 when he was just 23 and displayed it on the railings outside the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh, alongside works by Alexander Moffat, in protest at the poor recognition given to Scottish art by the organizers of the Edinburgh International Festival.

The painting sold for £103,000 at auction at the end of last month.

A total of 21 works, nine by Bellany and 12 by Moffat, were in the collection known as the “Balustrade Paintings”, very few of them ever being auctioned and most in public collections, including at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Brian Clements, managing director of auction house McTear’s, said: “This is an incredibly important painting and there was huge interest when it was announced that the work would go up for auction. .

“It was a very lively sale and we are delighted with the price obtained, which is one of the highest for the artist.

“Although we see many paintings by Bellany in the Scottish Contemporary Art auction, this piece is unique in large part because of the key role it played in changing the course of Scottish painting.

“This painting and the other railing paintings brought the new wave of Scottish realists to the attention of the art establishment with their powerful and moving images of working-class life, in Bellany’s case, fishermen and women of Port Seton.

“The balustrades paintings are considered some of the finest works produced by Bellany, with respected London art critic Brian Sewell summarizing the importance of the pieces when he compared the artist’s early work to Rembrandt.”

Alexander Moffat, summarizing the impact of Bellany’s early work, is quoted as saying, “People had painted fishing boats, but no one had ever painted about the lives of people who fished.

“That was John’s fantastic contribution.

“His place in Scottish art is defined by the Port Seton thing.

“It’s really his life’s work, his way of mythologizing the life of the fisherman.

“The fears, the spirit, the whole thing, the way he found the special imagery, which had never been done before, to say all of these things – it puts him forever in the history books.”

The Finnon Smoker was auctioned in its original frame, complete with nail holes and paint splatter.

Mr Clements added: ‘The frame and the nail holes are part of the DNA of the painting and basically it is exactly as John Bellany painted it, exactly as he framed it and exactly as he displayed it against the railings outside the Royal Scottish Academy. in 1965.”

In addition to The Finnon Smoker and other paintings by Bellany, the Scottish Contemporary Art Auction featured works by a selection of leading artists including LS Lowry, Peter Howson, Graham McKean, Jolomo, Ryan Mutter, Georgina McMaster and David Hockney.

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