A pri­vate view

Cho­sen by his wife He­len, a new ex­hi­bi­tion of work by the late John Bel­lany re­veals a per­sonal take on their jour­ney to­gether, brought to life through pieces from the fam­ily col­lec­tion


What started as a daunt­ing task for He­len Bel­lany – go­ing through the vast body of work left by her late hus­band John – turned out to be an ex­hil­a­rat­ing, life-af­firm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The works of John Bel­lany will be fa­mil­iar to art lovers the world over. Ar­guably the most in­flu­en­tial Scot­tish pain­ter since the Sec­ond World War, Bel­lany’s paint­ings fea­ture in the col­lec­tions of ma­jor mu­se­ums and art gal­leries around the world, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Gal­leries of Scot­land, the Tate Gallery and the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum, New York.

Now, two years af­ter his death, an am­bi­tious ex­hi­bi­tion of Bel­lany’s work, in­clud­ing never-be­fore-seen pieces from the fam­ily col­lec­tion, is set to go on dis­play in Ed­in­burgh. Se­lected by his wife He­len, The Caper­cail­lie’s Song re­veals her per­sonal view of her life with the artist as Bel­lany’s muse and in­spi­ra­tion.

‘It was very emo­tional, go­ing through all of John’s work and see­ing things that I hadn’t seen for many years. But it was also a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause I found such fan­tas­tic pieces,’ He­len says. ‘I have cho­sen paint­ings and draw­ings that have par­tic­u­lar sig­nif­i­cance for me in the life I shared with John. There were so many that I liked, I could Above: John Bel­lany – paint­ing was cen­tral to his life, ‘it was like a di­a­logue he was hav­ing with him­self’. Left:

(1991), oil on can­vas.

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