Scottish Maritime Museum makes landmark acquisition of early John Bellany work

  • 1 October 2018

One of the earliest and most significant large paintings by celebrated Scottish artist John Bellany CBE has been acquired by the Scottish Maritime Museum with support from Art Fund.

John Bellany, The Boat Builders © Scottish Maritime Museum

John Bellany, The Boat Builders

A painting by the Scottish artist John Bellany rarely seen before in public has been acquired by the Scottish Maritime Museum with support from Art Fund.

The Boat Builders is one of Bellany’s earliest works, painted in 1962 when he was attending Edinburgh College of Art. Spanning an enormous 3x5 metres, it is one of the most ambitious paintings of his early career.

The painting’s depiction of the construction of a boat is thought to represent Bellany’s ancestry, growing up in Port Seton near Edinburgh within a family of fishermen and boatbuilders. It is also said to signify Bellany’s relationship with his wife Helen, with the boat symbolising the beginning of their journey together through life.

The work is an important addition to the museum’s collecting initiative, which aims to create a nationally significant art collection that represents Scotland’s extensive maritime heritage.

The work will go on show at part of the Scottish Maritime Museum’s current Maritime Perspectives: Collecting Art of a Seafaring Nation exhibition until 21 October, but will remain on public view until the end of March, when it will undergo conservation in preparation for going on permanent display.

Stephen Deuchar, director of Art Fund, said: ‘We are delighted to support the acquisition of this important painting by John Bellany, which promises to be a highlight of the museum's thriving collection of Scotland's maritime heritage. It will give visitors from Scotland and beyond the opportunity to see and enjoy one of the country’s most celebrated artists, as well as firmly establishing the international significance of the museum as a leading collector of works by Scottish artists.’

Tags: Art we've helped buy