Bellany was born into a family of fishermen and boatbuilders on 18th June 1942 in Port seton, East Lothian. His father and grandfather were fishermen and he worked gutting fish during his student days. Much of his work reflects the inspiration that he drew from the coastal communities from which he came. He spent a great deal of time in Eyemouth on the Scottish borders.
John Bellany is perhaps one of the best known Scottish figurative painters working today. Still only in his fifties he has, nevertheless, gained a huge reputation in the art world. His paintings are to be found in the Tate Gallery, all the major Scottish Galleries, and in museums throughout the world including The Museum of Modern Art New York and the Metropolitan Museum New York. In 1994 he was awarded the CBE. Bellany is arguably Scotland's greatest living figurative painter and throughout his career he has produced an extraordinary body of work.
Bellany's paintings have been compared to Beckmann and Breughel, the clarity of line in his drawings and etchings has been compared to that of Rembrandt. He has produced intense, highly coloured works filled with symbolism which comment on the complexities of the human condition. However, most importantly Bellany has established his own artistic identity, an identity that is clearly identifiable and which has brought him tremendous recognition. His large scale works often incorporate hybrid human and animal forms, while recently his work has become less tortured, more optimistic and increasingly mellow.