28th Mar, 2024 10:00

The Scottish Contemporary Art Auction

  Lot 50


oil on board, signed and dated "Feb 1967" verso

overall size 161cm x 183cm

Note 1: Music was a big part of John Bellany's life and he grew up with a piano in the family home. His mother played and John had lessons from the age of eight. He later joined a band "The Blue Bonnets" and it monopolised his weekends almost to the end of his Edinburgh College of Art days. The Blue Bonnets were "the cultural sensation of East Lothian". When Bellany took up his place at The Royal College of Art in 1965 he was hungry for knowledge. The anonimity of London, the lost souls and loneliness, the joyless crowds on the tube and the lack of camaraderie after the smaller friendlier world of Edinburgh were alienating. His early RCA works showed the tensions and anxieties of metropolitan life. However, with the unwavering support of Carel Weight and his tutors he started his love affair with the capital and all the cultural opportunities it could offer.

In the summer of 1967 Bellany, accompanied by Sandy Moffat and Alan Bold, visited what was then East Germany where they celebrated John's twenty-fifth birthday. During the trip, on a day of creeping fog, the trio visited the site of the Buchenwald Concentration camp. It was the "thunderbolt of all time" for Bellany. He was convinced that a loving God could never have countenanced such evil. "Buchenwald marked the true end of innocence for Bellany" "Hell obsessed him after Buchenwald" said Moffat.

Dated verso "Feb 1967" in Bellany's hand "The Players" is a large and rare early example of the post Edinburgh and pre Buchenwald period in his career.

Note 2: It is extraordinary to contemplate that Bellany was only in his mid twenties when he painted these exceptional works about which London Standard art critic Brian Sewell later commented ".... in the 1960s (Bellany) painted such pictures as to make us think him as a painter with Rembrandt". John Bellany's early work, especially the large oil on boards, is highly prized by collectors and their appearances at auction are ever rarer. The most recent example to appear in our auctions was "The Finnon Smoker" (1965) 183 x 122cm oil on board, lot 65 , 29th May 2022 which sold for £80,000 (hammer).

Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist in the early 1970s by Mike Hanson of London and by descent. Mike Hanson taught scenic construction at Croydon College of Art on the Theatre Design course in the 1970s.


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Sold for £30,000
Estimated at £30,000 - £50,000

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