24th Oct, 2021 13:00

The Scottish Contemporary Art Auction

Lot 604


oil on board, signed and dated '76
overall size 154cm x 92cm
Unframed, as intended.
Provenance: This deeply personal portrait is of Juliet Lister, who became John Bellany's second wife, and her son David (Gray). After Juliet's tragic suicide this painting was held by her family and in recent times it passed to David Gray, Juliet's son and the current owner of the picture.
Note: By 1973 Bellany was head of the faculty of painting at Croydon College of Art. His marriage to Helen had foundered, his personal life was in disarray and eventually, in 1979 he married Juliet Lister, a mature student. Juliet however was beset by mental health problems which necessitated frequent and lengthy spells of time in hospital. Bellany’s work during this period predominated in dark themes dealing with fate and the passing of time. Despite the torment in his personal life, Bellany’s paintings were finally gaining recognition and in the same year he was a joint winner of the Athena Art Award, at the time the most valuable art prize in the UK. Alongside a host of solo exhibitions in galleries, in 1986 a major retrospective of his work was held at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and in 1988 at the Hamburg Kunsthalle. A crisis in his health brought Helen back into Bellany’s life. A distant presence over the years as the mother of their three children she, by necessity, now would prove his saviour, forcing him to seek medical attention for the chronic liver disease that was seriously endangering his life. After Juliet’s death in 1985 John and Helen remarried but Bellany’s health continued to deteriorate. By the end of 1987 the only remaining medical option was a liver transplant for which he was eventually considered and tested. He then joined the waiting list for a donor. On 30 April 1988, an extraordinary opportunity presented itself. Exceeding all expectations, the transplant granted the artist a further 25 years of life.


A condition report is offered as an indication of any issues visible to the naked eye. As none of our staff is a professional conservator or restorer, buyers must satisfy themselves in respect of condition and McTear’s can provide contact details of local professionals who can provide fully comprehensive expert reports, usually for a modest charge. The condition report does not form part of any contract between McTear's and the buyer, and all lots are offered "as is" in accordance with our Terms of Business available on our website.


Sold for £4,000
Estimated at £4,000 - £6,000

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