About this artwork

This portrait was painted in 1945, when Bet Low was just twenty-one years old, and still at Glasgow School of Art. The sitter is Billy Higgins, a Glasgow ‘character’ (variously recalled as a dancer, a businessman, a cook and a small-time con-man) who became friendly with Low and her then boyfriend, also a student at the School of Art. Higgins posed one day for both artists, and Low recalled that she painted this work very quickly. The painting was mentioned in an article in a Glasgow newspaper the following year, and the reporter noted: “B. Low is a young modern painter of Glasgow, who in this portrait tries to give an impression of a man thinking, and who is not afraid to modify the forms of reality to produce the strongest expression possible”.

  • title: Portrait of a Man Smoking
  • accession number: GMA 4493
  • artist: Bet LowScottish (1924 - 2007)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • medium: Oil on canvas
  • date created: 1945
  • measurements: 107.20 x 61.40 cm (framed 120.00 x 74.20 x 4.90 cm)
  • credit line: Dr Angus Gibson Gift, 2002
  • copyright: © The Bet Low trust
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Bet Low

Bet Low

Low was born in Gourock and in 1942 enrolled at Glasgow School of Art. She went on to study at Hospitalfield Summer School in Arbroath before attending Teacher Training College. However, teaching failed to inspire her and by chance she met the young comedian Stanley Baxter who introduced her to Glasgow’s Unity Theatre (an outreach project), with which she became heavily involved. At this time she was associated with the Clyde group of writers and artists, and depicted areas of Glasgow that were dilapidated and still scarred from the war. Low helped establish the critically acclaimed New Charing Cross Gallery in 1963 which promoted Scottish contemporary art at a time when there were few galleries in Glasgow.