John Bellany

Mizpah (Dated 1978)

About this artwork

The title, ‘Mizpah’, comes from the name of an Eyemouth fishing boat, in turn taken from Genesis (chapter 31, verse 49): “Mizpah; for he said, The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent from another”. Bellany painted the work shortly before his marriage to his second wife, Juliet. This new relationship gave rise to a group of light and airy paintings that reflected the artist’s own joy and optimism at the time. The figure wearing the puffin-mask playing the accordion (inscribed with ‘lune de miel’, or ‘honeymoon’) is likely to be Bellany himself. The female figure of the seagull represents Juliet.

  • title: Mizpah
  • accession number: GMA 2197
  • artist: John BellanyScottish (1942 - 2013)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: The sea Fishing industry
  • medium: Oil on canvas
  • date created: Dated 1978
  • measurements: 243.80 x 243.80 cm
  • credit line: Purchased 1980
  • copyright: © The Estate of John Bellany. All Rights Reserved 2016/ Bridgeman Images

John Bellany

John Bellany

Bellany was born in the fishing village of Port Seton, near Edinburgh. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art and at the Royal College of Art, London. His work of the 1960s and 1970s dealt with original sin, guilt, sex and death. His characteristic paintings are large compositions featuring his own personal symbolism, often derived from the sea and from religion, two elements that dominated his childhood. The flawed nature of humanity was usually central to his paintings. Bellany became seriously ill in the 1980s and underwent a liver transplant operation in 1988, after which his work became more optimistic in mood.