The death this week of the great Scottish artist, John Bellany, aged just 71, did not come as a bolt from the blue to those who knew about his many years of ill health.
However, that fact doesn't stop us shaking our fists in anger and frustration on his and our behalf. Illness had never extinguished his urge to paint, which was as vital a part of his existence as breathing. There was so much work he still had to do, projects in the pipeline, paintings for us to glory in.
He died on Wednesday, and on that same day, the announcement of his death was posted on his website. If you haven't looked at it, please do - it's at www.bellany.com. The words are moving - sharing with us the fact that his family were with him when he died in his studio, a paintbrush in his hand. But next to the words is a remarkable black and white photographic portrait of him, entitled Passion, in which he looks as if he's roaring a fierce battle-cry.
But while we're sad that he's gone, we do know that he knew how much he was appreciated. The huge retrospective of his work that was mounted at the National Galleries of Scotland at the end of last year was called "John Bellany - A Passion for Life". His work hangs in galleries around the world; there were documentaries made about him, and he was given a CBE and honorary degrees. He battled many personal demons throughout his life, as well as the art establishment early on in his career, which mocked his figurative work at a time when Pop Art reigned supreme.
How lovely then, for him to have been lauded for his body of work while he was alive. It's a stark contrast to Vincent van Gogh, for example, who died in despair and penury, which is why Richard Curtis's Dr Who episode packs such an emotional punch - Vincent travels in the Tardis to the present day, to see tour groups crowding round his paintings in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. I shed many tears every time I watch it. And although Curtis's new film, About Time, is like being locked inside a Boden catalogue for all eternity, its saving grace is its basic message: live for the day, and if you love or admire someone - tell them.
And I'm going to tell you now that my theatre recommendation is The Baroness - the UK premiere of a Swedish play, translated into English, based on the real-life, intense relationship between Karen Blixen, the writer of Out of Africa, and a young poet. When they met, he was 29 and she was 62. Their relationship lasted six years. Blixen is payed by the brilliant Roberta Taylor, famous for her roles in The Bill and Eastenders, but long-time Citizens Theatre fans will remember her as a stalwart of the Gorbals company. The Baroness opens in Stornoway before touring Scotland for a month. Details at www.dogstartheatre.co.uk
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