Tuesday, July 5, 2022
NewsOff the rails: Scots artist's famed painting sells for over £100k

Off the rails: Scots artist’s famed painting sells for over £100k

A RARE early oil painting by a Scots artist has sold for more than £100k at The Scottish Contemporary Art Auction at McTear’s. 

The Finnon Smoker, by John Bellany, which sold for £103k, was exhibited on the railings outside the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh after its completion.

The Finnon Smoker was painted in 1965 and was displayed on the railings outside the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh in protest of the lack of recognition given to Scottish art by the organisers of the Edinburgh International Festival.  

Displayed alongside works by his contemporary Alexander Moffat, a total of 21 works featured in the collection known as the ‘railings paintings’.

Very few have ever came to auction, with most featuring in public collections, including the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.   

The Finnon Smoker, painted by John Bellany.
The Finnon Smoker was painted by Bellany in 1965, before being displayed on railings outside the Royal Scottish Academy.

Commenting on the auction, McTear’s managing director, Brian Clements, said: “This is an incredibly important painting and there was huge interest when it was announced the work would be coming to auction. 

“It was a very lively sale and we are delighted with the price achieved, which is one of the highest for the artist. 

“Although we see many Bellany paintings in The Scottish Contemporary Art Auction, this piece stands alone due in no small part to the key role it played in changing the course of Scottish painting.  

“This, and the other railings paintings, brought the new wave of Scottish Realists to the attention of the wider arts establishment through their powerful and emotive images of the lives of working people, in Bellany’s case the fishermen and women of Port Seton.”

In summing up the impact of Bellany’s early works, Alexander Moffat has been quoted as saying: “People had painted fishing boats, but nobody had ever painted about the life of people who did the fishing.

“That was John’s fantastic contribution.  

“His place in Scottish art is defined by the Port Seton thing.

“That’s really his life’s work, the way he has mythologised the life of the fisherman.

“The fears, the spirit, the whole thing, the way he found the special imagery, that had never been done before, to say all those things – that puts him into the history books forever.” 

The Finnon Smoker was presented at auction in its original frame, complete with nail holes and splashes of paint. 

Brian Clements continued: “The frame and the nail holes are part of the DNA of the painting and fundamentally.

“It’s exactly how John Bellany painted it, exactly as he framed it and exactly how he exhibited it against the railings outside the Royal Scottish Academy in 1965.” 

Related Stories