John Bellany was born at Port Seton on the East Coast of Scotland into a family of fishermen. Images of fishermen, boats and the sea have continually figured in his work. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art and then the Royal College of Art from 1965–68. The symbolism in the monumental Max Beckmann painting The Departure (1932–33), exhibited at the Tate in 1965, was revelatory to Bellany. After visiting East Germany in 1967, his work became darker and more complex, with images of concentration camps symbolising humanity’s irredeemable fall from grace. After suffering periods of ill-health in the 1980s, he produced a series of life-affirming portraits which were exhibited at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 1989.
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