A painting considered "arguably Alasdair Gray’s masterwork" features among a selection of his work heading to auction this week in Scotland

The Contemporary Art sale, which takes place on Wednesday (January 10) in Edinburgh, features works by Gray which highlight key points throughout his career, from oils and drawings to prints and multiples.

Included in the sale is Glasgow Triumph of Death (Fall of Star Wormwood), which has been in private hands since 1957. 

READ MORE: Glasgow Museums acquires Alasdair Gray’s ‘most significant’ painting

Though perhaps not as well-known an image as its fellow mural Cowcaddens Streetscape in the Fifties (now held in Glasgow Life Museums' collection), fine art auctioneer Lyon & Turnbull notes that the painting is "the "ultimate visual realisation of the literary, artistic and philosophical preoccupations which Gray was to crystallise in his landmark novel Lanark (1981)".

Gray took inspiration for the painting from Breughel’s horrifying masterpiece Triumph of Death, representing mutant-like figures in place of Breughel’s skeletons, as well as borrowing devils from that other preeminent apocalyptic painter, Hieronymus Bosch. Behind this grisly chaos are the Necropolis and Cathedral (which indeed feature so pivotally at the close of Lanark), the Royal Infirmary, Clyde and St Enoch station.

Glasgow Triumph of Death (Fall of Star Wormwood) is expected to fetch between £25,000 and £35,000.

Alasdair Gray was one of Scotland’s most multi-talented artists. He was born in Riddrie in the east end of Glasgow and attended The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) in the 1950s.

Gray was a prolific poet, playwright, novelist, painter, and printmaker whose work continues to be celebrated in books, exhibitions, conferences, and the annual Gray Day (February 25).

The Herald: The late Alasdair GrayThe late Alasdair Gray

He credited his fledging love of painting to a weekend art class at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. 

Gray's perhaps best-known work is his first novel Lanark. The book was published in 1981, having taken almost 30 years to be completed, and has been described as ‘one of the landmarks of 20th-century fiction'. 

The auction comes after the big screen adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel Poor Things won Best Film - Musical or Comedy at the 2024 Golden Globes on Sunday night.

Emma Stone also won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for her role as Bella Baxter in the film, which will be released in UK & Ireland cinemas on January 12. 

READ MORE: Poor Things: Big screen adaptation of Alasdair Gray novel hailed as 'masterpiece'

Set in the 19th century and borrowing from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Guardian Fiction Prize-winning novel Poor Things centres on Baxter, who is brought back to life after the brain of a fetus is placed in her skull by a scientist in late-Victorian Glasgow.

Searchlight Pictures, one of the companies producing the film, describes it as “a whirlwind adventure hopping from Alexandria to Odessa to a Parisian brothel”.

Commenting on the win, Sorcha Dallas, Custodian of The Alasdair Gray Archive, told The Herald: "The Alasdair Gray Archive are delighted that Emma Stone has won a Best Actress Golden Globe for her portrayal of Alasdair Gray’s female protagonist in Poor Things, Bella Baxter.

"We hope it will bring more readers to Gray’s work and discover how central Glasgow was through the new digital guide we have created www.poorthingsnovel.com."

Other key highlights appearing at the forthcoming auction include one of Paul Neagu's finest works ever to appear on the market and works by Gillian Ayres, Felim Egan, John Byrne, Peter Howson, Jack Vettriano, Stephen Conroy and Alan Davie, and a ‘macabre’ of Pat Douthwaite pastels.

For more information on the auction, visit the Lyon & Turnbull website here