The Boat Builders is one of the earliest works by Scottish artist John Bellany; it was painted in 1962 when he was a student at Edinburgh College of Art.

The large painting, spanning almost five metres, shows construction work being completed on a fishing boat called Good Hope. A number of figures can be seen working on the boat, which is marked with the registration number LH-321 (Leith) and the name Bellany on the stern.

Bellany was born and grew up in a fishing family in Port Seton, near Edinburgh, and boatbuilding scenes like this would have been familiar to him from his childhood. The picture illustrates Bellany’s interest in painting the life of the common man at work, as recommended by realist artists such as Gustave Courbet and Fernand Léger. At a time when abstraction was in vogue, Bellany was more inspired by the social realism advocated by the British art critic John Berger. Bellany went on to study at the Royal College of Art in London before establishing his career as a respected painter, teacher and Royal Academician.

The Boat Builders now becomes an important addition to the Scottish Maritime Museum’s growing collection of works of art which represent Scotland’s seafaring history.

Artists include


The Estate of John Bellany

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