JOHN BYRNE 1921-2003

 

CECI N'EST PAS UNE RÉTROSPECTIVE

 

25 MAY - 16 JULY

  • "Paisley 'Buddies' are, to a man and a woman, total oddballs.

    I should know, I’m one of them,” said John once.

  • John’s formal life as an artist began aged 18 when he entered Glasgow School of Art. His mother said he started drawing in his pram. A year before entering the art school, he started at A F Stoddart & Co in Paisley - a “Technicolour hell hole” - as a “slab boy”. Much of what was to come, visually and literally, drew on what John observed there. Our show begins in 1963 with a church interior which he painted while on a travelling scholarship to Italy after being awarded the Newbery Medal at GSA. He saw the great quattrocento painters: Giotto, Cimabue and Duccio. The light, the exquisite detail and stillness of the Italian primitives is all there in his work of the late 60s and early 70s: Two Children (no.2), Boy in Dungarees (no.3) and The Pink Boot (no.5).

  • John returned to the carpet factory in 1966 during which time he secured an exhibition - and his passport out...

    John returned to the carpet factory in 1966 during which time he secured an exhibition - and his passport out of factory life - at the Portal Gallery, London under the pseudonym “Patrick”. Having passed himself off as a self-taught naïf, he was given an exhibition. The dream-like images that made up the show met with success. His ruse was uncovered and from here he went on to design record covers for The Beatles, Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty; and to co-write songs with the latter.

     

    From the early 1970s John diversified into writing, designing and directing stage and screen productions: Writer's Cramp (1977) and then a story of three workers in a Paisley carpet factory who dream of escaping to pursue a life in rock and roll in The Slab Boys (1978). In 1986 he wrote the cult television series Tutti Frutti, starring Robbie Coltrane, Emma Thompson and Richard Wilson, which tells the story of the silver jubilee tour of the rock band The Majestics. This was followed by Your Cheatin' Heart - a comedy of Glasgow life set to a backdrop of country and western music. Perhaps because of the immense success of these productions his prodigious talent as an artist was temporarily over-shadowed. He didn’t stop, however, but continued instead to design theatre sets and costumes.

     

    Right: Card for first Portal Gallery exhibition, Dec 1967

  • On seeing John’s show at the Third Eye Centre in 1975, Arthur Watson PRSA, wrote: “The paintings counteracted the abstract orthodoxies of 1975 while also shedding his persona of Patrick. The facial acrobatics of the self-portraits, the monumental cigarette ends sculpted in paint, the double portrait of Billy Connolly and his banjo of the riotous ‘Kingarockinroll’; each work could have been expanded by a lesser artist into a stylistically coherent body of work, but here a stream of ideas exploded round the gallery walls, realised in a tour de force of painterly virtuosity.”

     

    In the decades that followed an extensive iconography unfolded amounting, in some cases, to a kind of pictorial autobiography. Paintings of 1950s Ferguslie Park - Feegie - captured what was once an invention, the “teenager”, as this strange new being emerged in the artist’s own youth. In his Underwood Lane series, the Teddy Boys who loiter are reminiscences of his own past. These pictures often referenced filmic and theatrical worlds, their backdrops lit like stage-sets. Nocturnal themes abounded: moonlit woods; the streets of 1950s Paisley; the self-examining artist, alone and wreathed in cigarette smoke. In a finely balanced act, he pulled together the macabre and humour.

     

    But back to oddballs: running through all of John’s work is the outsider, either as a lone figure or a fragment of society. The vision may be fantastical and magical but it’s what John knows.

     

    emily walsh
    The Fine Art Society

  •  

  • Letter to Portal Gallery as 'Patrick', May 1970

     

    Letter to Portal Gallery as 'Patrick', May 1970


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  • 1 . CHURCH OF SAN FORTUNATO, PERUGIA, 1963 signed ink and wash on card 22 x 17 1/4 inches John...
    1 . CHURCH OF SAN FORTUNATO, PERUGIA, 1963

    signed

    ink and wash on card

    22 x 17 1/4 inches

     

    John went to Perugia on a scholarship from Glasgow School of Art from November 1963 to March 1964. He painted various studies of the Church of San Fortunato in Perugia.


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  • 2. TWO CHILDREN, 1968 signed 'Patrick' oil on panel 38 x 48 inches Provenance Portal Gallery, London, 1968; The Scottish...
    2. TWO CHILDREN, 1968

    signed 'Patrick'

    oil on panel

    38 x 48 inches

     

    Provenance

    Portal Gallery, London, 1968; The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh, where acquired by the previous owner in 1992

    exhibited

    Portal Gallery, Patrick at Portal, London, Nov-Dec 1968; The Scottish Gallery, 150th Anniversary Exhibition, Edinburgh Festival, Edinburgh, 1992

     

    The models for this painting are John's eldest children John and Celie.


  •  

  • 3. BLACK BOY IN DUNGAREES, 1972

    signed 'Patrick'; titled 'Black [...] Boy in Dungarees' in pencil verso

    gouache on primed painting paper

    15 x 16 1/2 inches

     

    exhibited

    Portal Gallery, Patrick at Portal: an exhibition of new smaller paintings, London, Oct 1972

    3. BLACK BOY IN DUNGAREES, 1972 signed 'Patrick'; titled 'Black [...] Boy in Dungarees' in pencil verso gouache on primed...
  • 4. MAN ON THE BEACH WITH CAT, 1972 signed 'Patrick' acrylic on board 7 x 13 inches provenance William Hardie,...
    4. MAN ON THE BEACH WITH CAT, 1972

    signed 'Patrick'

    acrylic on board

    7 x 13 inches

     

    provenance

    William Hardie, Glasgow

    exhibited

    Portal Gallery, Patrick at Portal: an exhibition of new smaller paintings, London, Oct 1972

  • 5. THE PINK BOOT, c.1972-5

    signed 'Patrick'

    pen, ink and gouache on paper

    18 1/2 x 18 1/2 inches

     

    provenance

    William Hardie, Glasgow

     

    The tiger is homage to Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) and also the nineteenth-century American folk painter Edward Hicks (1780-1849) and his ‘Peaceable Kingdom’ series.

     

    SOLD
    5. THE PINK BOOT, c.1972-5 signed 'Patrick' pen, ink and gouache on paper 18 1/2 x 18 1/2 inches provenance...
  • 6. MEAT MARKET, 1974 signed gouache on board 8 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches provenance The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh exhibited...
    6. MEAT MARKET, 1974

    signed

    gouache on board

    8 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches

     

    provenance

    The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh

    exhibited

    Third Eye Centre, Glasgow; Paisley Museum and Art Galleries; Aberdeen Gallery, John Byrne: Paintings and Drawings, 1975 

     

    In a video made for the 1975 exhibition at Third Eye Art Centre, Glasgow, John said, “I was driving along the Gallowgate and saw the doors of the meat market had been closed and caught a glimpse of the meat, hanging up carcasses. I thought I would go back there and do some stuff there. It was pure chance. I’ve always been interested in butcher's shelves, in the colours and so on and it's only afterwards that I acknowledge the fact that they are dead animals.” The Third Eye Art Centre exhibition was John’s first solo show in Scotland and featured a series on the meat market.

     

    SOLD
  • 7. MARCELLINA, THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, 1986

    inscribed 'Marcelina'

    pen, ink and watercolour on board

    11 x 4 1/2 inches

     

    provenance

    William Hardie, Glasgow

     

    John designed the theatre set and costumes for 'Le Nozze di Figaro' directed by John Cox for Scottish Opera, in the 1985/86 season.

    7. MARCELLINA, THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, 1986 inscribed 'Marcelina' pen, ink and watercolour on board 11 x 4 1/2 inches...

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  • 8. AN UNSOLVED CRIME, 1997 signed 'Patrick' watercolour and ink on paper 18 x 24 inches provenance Portal Gallery, London,...
    8. AN UNSOLVED CRIME, 1997

    signed 'Patrick'

    watercolour and ink on paper

    18 x 24 inches

     

    provenance

    Portal Gallery, London, 1998; Duncan R Miller Fine Arts, London; private collection, Scotland

    exhibited

    Portal Gallery, London, 1998

     

    John produced a larger screenprint after this watercolour in an edition of 40 at Glasgow Print Studio in 1999.


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  • 9. SELF PORTRAIT AGAINST THE LIGHT, c.2000 signed mixed media on paper 16 3/4 x 11 3/4 inches provenance The...
    9. SELF PORTRAIT AGAINST THE LIGHT, c.2000

    signed

    mixed media on paper

    16 3/4 x 11 3/4 inches

     

    provenance

    The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh, no.16115

  • 10. DANSE MACABRE, 2002

    signed; signed and titled on board verso

    oil on board

    47 1/4 x 35 1/2 inches

     

    provenance

    Private collection, Scotland

    10. DANSE MACABRE, 2002 signed; signed and titled on board verso oil on board 47 1/4 x 35 1/2 inches...

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  • Letter from René Magritte to John Byrne, March 1967

    Letter from René Magritte to John Byrne, March 1967


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  • 11. CECI N'EST PAS UN AUTOPORTRAIT, 2003 signed and inscribed with title; titled and dated 2003 on frame verso oil...
    11. CECI N'EST PAS UN AUTOPORTRAIT, 2003

    signed and inscribed with title; titled and dated 2003 on frame verso

    oil on board

    31 x 28 inches

     

    literature

    Robert Hewison, John Byrne - Art and Life, London, 2011, ill. pg.90, plate 60 and front cover

     

    SOLD

  •  

  • 12. CRISIS IN UNDERWOOD LANE, 2010-11 signed oil on canvas 30 x 24 inches provenance The Rendezvous Gallery, Aberdeen; private...
    12. CRISIS IN UNDERWOOD LANE, 2010-11

    signed

    oil on canvas

    30 x 24 inches

     

    provenance

    The Rendezvous Gallery, Aberdeen; private collection, Scotland

     

    In 2003 Byrne began work on a musical called 'Underwood Lane', based on existing songs by Gerry Rafferty, about a rock'n'roll band in 1950s Paisley. This led to the production of a long series of images exploring the iconography of his adolescence.

     

    SOLD
  • 13. GLEN PARK VELO, 2012

    signed

    oil, pastel and pencil on paper laid on board

    15 x 15 3/4 inches

     

    provenance

    Private collection, Scotland 

    exhibited

    The Fine Art Society, John Byrne: The Joyful Mysteries, London, 2012, no.18

     

    SOLD
    13. GLEN PARK VELO, 2012 signed oil, pastel and pencil on paper laid on board 15 x 15 3/4 inches...

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  • 14. NIGHT AND DAY, 2012 diptych, signed 'Patrick' oil on board 56 x 96 inches (each panel 56 x 48...
    14. NIGHT AND DAY, 2012

    diptych, signed 'Patrick'

    oil on board

    56 x 96 inches (each panel 56 x 48 inches)

     

    provenance

    The artist's studio

    exhibited

    The Fine Art Society, John Byrne: The Joyful Mysteries, London, 2012, no.3

     

    SOLD

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  • 15. DESIGN FOR THE KING'S THEATRE DOME MURAL, c.2013 signed and inscribed 'Scale 2/3 of Section AA (1:10CAO)' gouache and...
    15. DESIGN FOR THE KING'S THEATRE DOME MURAL, c.2013

    signed and inscribed 'Scale 2/3 of Section AA (1:10CAO)'

    gouache and pencil on paper

    33 1/2 x 32 1/2 inches

     

    provenance

    The artist's studio

    exhibited

    The Fine Art Society, John Byrne: Dead End, Edinburgh, 2014, ex. cat.

     

    This is the original design for the King's Theatre dome ceiling in Edinburgh. A print was made after this work in an edition of 100.

  • 16. LA BÊTE ROUGE, 2014

    signed

    oil on board

    29 1/2 x 22 1/2 inches

     

    provenance

    The artist's studio

    exhibited

    The Fine Art Society, John Byrne: Dead End, Edinburgh, 2014, no.21

    16. LA BÊTE ROUGE, 2014 signed oil on board 29 1/2 x 22 1/2 inches provenance The artist's studio exhibited...
  • 17. GRAY'S ANATOMY, 2014 oil on board 26 x 18 inches provenance The artist's studio exhibited The Fine Art Society,...
    17. GRAY'S ANATOMY, 2014

    oil on board

    26 x 18 inches

     

    provenance

    The artist's studio

    exhibited

    The Fine Art Society, John Byrne: Dead End, Edinburgh, 2014, no.7

     

    SOLD
  • 18. THE HUNTSMAN AND THE SNOWY OWL, 2014

    signed; inscribed with title verso

    casein on paper

    42 1/2 x 32 inches

     

    provenance

    Private collection, London

    exhibited

    The Fine Art Society, John Byrne: Dead End, Edinburgh, 2014, no.18

     

    SOLD
    18. THE HUNTSMAN AND THE SNOWY OWL, 2014 signed; inscribed with title verso casein on paper 42 1/2 x 32...
  • 19. 'YOUR CHEATIN' HEART', hand painted guitar signed and inscribed 'Your Cheatin' Heart' oil 36 1/2 x 13 x 3...
    19. 'YOUR CHEATIN' HEART', hand painted guitar

    signed and inscribed 'Your Cheatin' Heart'

    oil

    36 1/2 x 13 x 3 1/2 inches

     

    provenance

    Private collection, Scotland

     

    SOLD
  • 20. THE VITAL SPARK, 2017 signed oil on board 21 1/2 x 17 1/2 inches provenance The Rendezvous Gallery, Aberdeen,...
    20. THE VITAL SPARK, 2017

    signed

    oil on board

    21 1/2 x 17 1/2 inches

     

    provenance

    The Rendezvous Gallery, Aberdeen, 2017; private collection, Scotland

    exhibited

    The Rendezvous Gallery, John Byrne: Don't Fence Me In, Aberdeen, Dec 2017

     

    SOLD
  • 21. THE FATHER OF MAN, 2020

    signed; inscribed on linen verso

    oil and bodycolour on linen

    15 3/4 x 15 3/4 inches

     

    provenance

    The artist's studio

    exhibited

    The Fine Art Society, John Byrne: Welcome to my World, Edinburgh, Jun-Jul 2020

    21. THE FATHER OF MAN, 2020 signed; inscribed on linen verso oil and bodycolour on linen 15 3/4 x 15...
  • 22. BLUE SELF PORTRAIT, 2021 signed ink, watercolour and pastel on paper 30 3/4 x 23 inches provenance Private collection,...
    22. BLUE SELF PORTRAIT, 2021

    signed

    ink, watercolour and pastel on paper

    30 3/4 x 23 inches

     

    provenance

    Private collection, London

     

    SOLD
  • 23. SELF PORTRAIT, 2021 signed oil on board 30 x 19 3/4 inches provenance The artist's studio
    23. SELF PORTRAIT, 2021

    signed

    oil on board

    30 x 19 3/4 inches

     

    provenance

    The artist's studio

  • 24. PORTRAIT OF INGEBJORG SMITH, 2003 signed and inscribed 'Ingebjorg' pastel 28 x 31 inches provenance Private collection, Scotland
    24. PORTRAIT OF INGEBJORG SMITH, 2003

    signed and inscribed 'Ingebjorg'

    pastel

    28 x 31 inches

     

    provenance

    Private collection, Scotland

  • 25. THE CLAIM, 2016

    signed

    oil on Arches paper

    22 x 15 1/4 inches

     

    provenance

    Private collection, Scotland

    exhibited

    The Fine Art Society, John Byrne: Moonshine, Edinburgh, 2016, no.16

    25. THE CLAIM, 2016 signed oil on Arches paper 22 x 15 1/4 inches provenance Private collection, Scotland exhibited The...
  • 26. UPTOWN GUY, 2017 signed; titled on board verso oil on board 24 x 22 inches provenance Private collection, Scotland...
    26. UPTOWN GUY, 2017

    signed; titled on board verso

    oil on board

    24 x 22 inches

     

    provenance

    Private collection, Scotland

    exhibited

    The Fine Art Society, John Byrne: Lullaby of Broadway, London, September 2017

  • 27. BLACK LIVES MATTER, 2020

    signed

    oil on board

    23 3/4 x 26 inches

     

    provenance

    The artist's studio

    exhibited

    The Fine Art Society, John Byrne: Welcome to My World, Edinburgh, June-July 2020

    27. BLACK LIVES MATTER, 2020 signed oil on board 23 3/4 x 26 inches provenance The artist's studio exhibited The...
  • 28. SELF PORTRAIT WITH CROWN, 2021 initialled oil on panel 24 1/4 x 13 inches provenance Private collection, Scotland
    28. SELF PORTRAIT WITH CROWN, 2021

    initialled

    oil on panel

    24 1/4 x 13 inches

     

    provenance

    Private collection, Scotland

  • 29. THE RED JUG, 2021 initialled JB oil on board 25 x 20 inches provenance Private collection, Scotland SOLD
    29. THE RED JUG, 2021

    initialled JB

    oil on board

    25 x 20 inches

     

    provenance

    Private collection, Scotland

     

    SOLD

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