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© the artist's estate / Bridgeman Images. Photo credit: British Council Collection

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John Bellany is a Scot, the son of a boatbuilder, and from the age of four he began to draw boats, fishermen and the sea. These themes continued to be a major thread of his imagery ever since, although his iconography has extended from particular experiences of a Scottish fishing port into the wider references of 20th-century European painting. Although in description it sounds like a formula, Bellany's preferred composition layout – a handful of hieratic standing figures, set with their backs against a stormy sea and a louring sky – never seems repetitive. Usually the figures are dour fishermen or self-portraits in various costumes, but in 'L'horloge', the three figures are disguised and mysterious. The two figures on the right, with their bird-like heads, are an amalgam of first-hand observations of sea birds and a deep knowledge of the painted bird-masked figures of Max Beckmann, James Ensor and Max Ernst.

British Council Collection





oil on canvas


H 172.3 x W 172.3 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

purchased from Acme Gallery, 1980

Work type



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British Council Collection

Visual Arts, Arts Group, 10 Spring Gardens, London, Greater London SW1A 2BN England

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