ONE of Britain's leading painters, Jenny Saville, has unveiled a rare new work in the National Galleries of Scotland inspired by the horror of war in Syria.

Known for her paintings of female forms on a massive scale, the vivid painting, entitled Aleppo, is the first work by the painter, who studied at the Glasgow School of Art, to refer directly to a contemporary event.

It has been hung in the National Gallery on The Mound in Edinburgh between two landmark works by Titian.

The painting is part of Saville's first show in Scotland, which is to open at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA) this weekend.

For the show, the galleries have purchased a rare and early oil study by Saville, which is understood to be the first work by the painter to be acquired by a UK public collection.

"It is sitting between two Titian's which is a dream come true," said the artist, who is based in Oxford and is preparing for a major May exhibition in New York.

Aleppo hangs between Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto by Titian.

She added: "It is a complete and utter honour to go between two of the greatest paintings created in art history.

"I have been working on Pietas [depictions of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ] quite a bit, and a series of children being carried.

"Over 20 years I have collecting images of babies being carried out of bombings, war situations, in Pieta poses knowing that one day I will do a piece, so this work has been a long time in the making.

"Aleppo is the first one I have released like it.

"I have done paintings linked to war before, but not linked to a political situation - I have endless images from the internet, or from newspapers, of babies that have been killed in these bombings, and when I finished the piece, I have two children myself, how long will it be before we as humans know not to do this?

"When I was titling it, I thought I would link it - for the first time - to what is going on in Syria.

"It's not a political piece, but it is linked to what is going on in that region."

The newly acquired piece, a Study for Branded, was paint in 1992 for Saville's Glasgow School of Art graduation exhibition.

Saville's 21-foot-long triptych Strategy (South Face/Front Face/North Face) reached a wider audience when it appeared on the cover of the 1994 album The Holy Bible by Welsh band the Manic Street Preachers.

The new show brings together 17 works from private and public collections across the world.

It is the first museum exhibition of Saville’s work ever to be held in Scotland, and only her third in the UK.

Simon Groom, director of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, said: "We are delighted to be showing the very first major exhibition of work by Jenny Saville in Scotland at the SNGMA.

"Saville’s extraordinarily powerful paintings and drawings form the centrepiece of NOW, the third exhibition in the most ambitious programme of contemporary art ever staged at the National Galleries of Scotland.

"Alongside her work, we will be showing a number of other artists working in Scotland and internationally, that reflects something of the extraordinary interests and range of art being made today."