Born: April 3 1955;

Died: January 31 2016

ALLY (Alasdair Neil Renwick) Thompson, who has died aged 60, was a Scottish painter of the New Glasgow Boys generation alongside Peter Howson, Ken Currie, Adrian Wisnieski and Steven Campbell.

Born in Glasgow, he studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1975 to 1980, gaining a B.A. First Class Honours in Fine Art, and a diploma in postgraduate studies with high commendation and a travelling scholarship.

In 1989, a solo exhibition of his work ran in Glasgow at the Barbizon Gallery, which was visited by the international art promoter Norbert Binotti, who then brought Thompson to international prominence with a one-man show in New York and major exhibitions in Paris. He lived and worked periodically in Provence in the 1990s. He subsequently steadily consolidated his international reputation with exhibitions in Britain, Europe and North America, appearing in galleries such as Flowers East in London and Gallery Albert 1er in Paris.

A close friend of Peter Howson, with whom he was a fellow student at the GSA, both men and their work were almost equally unknown when they shared one of their first exhibitions, a two-man show at the Art School itself in 1984. From this point forward, their careers, but not their friendship, began to diverge.

Ally Thompson was naturally shy in new company rather than a bold and forthright salesman of his own work. He painted in several distinctly different styles, from surrealist to abstract to expressionist landscape and much in between, making him restlessly hard to categorise and package for promoters and critics. But he was fortunate to meet various friends and agents (formal and informal) throughout his life who enthusiastically filled in the gaps for him and became almost evangelical in the cause of promoting his work.

Thompson had this effect on people. His film heroes, endearingly, were the likes of Steve McQueen, Kirk Douglas and Burt Reynolds, but these fantastical male archetypes were fatally at odds with the troubled and self-doubting persona that was the real and essential creative engine of the artist.

Visiting his studio in the early 1980s Alec Mather, a successful Lanarkshire businessman, was one of the first of these almost surrogate father figures on the scene when he offered to pay Thompson twice what he was asking for one his paintings on condition that Thompson give up his day job as a secondary school teacher. Thompson never looked back creatively, but the cost for this brave choice was ultimately high in personal terms, since in his latter years money was often too tight for him to afford a home of his own or a life fully independent of his extended family, something deleterious to a proud man with a keen sense of his own talent.

He never achieved quite the kind of fame and notoriety in Glasgow and Scotland enjoyed by the likes of Howson, Currie and Campbell (who he briefly taught in his stint as a GSA tutor in giving evening classes in 1980-81). In this sense he followed a melancholy Scottish tradition of prophets who within their lifetimes are ‘without honour in their own land’.

The prophet reference may not be over the top. Howson once described Ally as “a visionary in the mould of William Blake”, and more than most artists his work was allied to a philosophy, a well-thought out moral opposition to the excesses of our materialist western society. Thompson always favoured high-flown debate over small talk, and was for many years part of the so called “Blow Hards” discussion group at which Howson and various leading members of Glasgow society would grapple with the role of spirituality in modern life.

Though never devoutly religious, Christian imagery such as crosses and churches and saints often recurred in his work, which he saw as symbols for the struggle of an individual to maintain moral integrity and spiritual awareness amidst a human society obsessed with short-term selfish gain and mindless populism. He always had more time for those of faith than for rampant atheists and nihilists.

Outside of Scotland, through the friendship and support of Norbert Binotti and (after his untimely death from AIDS) Norbert’s brother Claude, Thompson found an invigorating new audience for his work in New York and Paris and the South of France. Norbert Binotti was the ultimate proxy hero for Thompson: a motorbiking Franco-American art promoter with the street-wisdom of a New York hustler. Like his brief meeting with the then-hard-drinking John Bellany in London in the 1980s (who praised Thompson's drawing skills to the skies), the influence of these demigods on Thompson would take on a dark side in later life when his own self-destructive streak took hold.

Thompson painted constantly during the American and French years, with an energy surely unparalleled by any artist of modern times. The story goes that he fell asleep snoring one afternoon at a Pavarotti concert in New York, in a seat worth hundreds of dollars, because he had been painting through the night.

For all his non-materialist philosophy, he was not above a bit of name-dropping on occasion, and like any Glaswegian boy was suitably astonished to sometimes find himself in the company (and painting collections of) the likes of Bob Geldof, Petula Clark, Richard Jobson, Picasso’s son Claude and even France’s Mitterand himself.

His output of drawing, collage and painting throughout his life was staggering. He kept meticulous handwritten records of where he believed many of them to be held in private and public collections throughout the world, but those records must now be incomplete at best.

Incredibly, he would sometimes be presented with a photograph of a painting from years previously which he had actually forgotten painting. For a man as magnificently self-obsessed as him, that was not amnesia, but a necessary outcome of enormity.

He had a difficult relationship with his father, whom he feared did not understand his painting or fully support his choice of art as a career. But in the last analysis, their apparent antipathy was really that kind of two-way unrequited love which lowland Scots males of the 1950s so excelled at, as became clear upon his father’s death.

Greatly affected by this loss, Thompson increasingly struggled with depression and alcoholism for the next seven years until his death in January 2016. Aged only 60, few men had prepared their own immortality in their paintings the way he had. It took him years to be so painfully honest as to paint those lonely little figures in turbulent landscapes under screaming sunsets. He thought they were a depiction of his secret inner self. But when you watch the reaction of people looking at them for the first time, you receive the most hopeful revelation imaginable: that the innermost in everyone is actually universal. They are, we are: each looking at ourselves.

Ally Thompson is survived by his mother Sheena, and three brothers Gavin, Robin and Douglas.