Slab Boys and Tutti Frutti writer and artist John Byrne dies aged 83

The Paisley-born artist died peacefully on Thursday with his wife by his side, The Fine Art Society announced.

Legendary Scottish artist John Patrick Byrne has died at the age of 83.

The Fine Art Society announced that the Paisley-born writer passed away peacefully on Thursday with his wife by his side.

Byrne became a notable playwright following The Slab Boys trilogy, which focused on working class life in Scotland and has been performed around the world.

Some of his most famous works of art include three giant murals of Billy Connolly on buildings throughout Glasgow.

John Byrne with a poster promoting his comedy Normal Service on March 9, 1979.

A statement from The Fine Art Society read: “It is with huge sadness that we announce the death of John Byrne.

“He died peacefully yesterday with his wife Jeanine by his side. We will miss him tremendously. Our thoughts are with his family.

“John was one of the most inventive and versatile of all Scotland’s modern artists. As well as being a technically masterful painter, he was a designer of theatre sets and album covers and one of the most notable playwrights of his generation.

“The Slab Boys (1978) and Tutti Frutti (1981) were landmarks of theatre and TV. He designed record covers for Donovan, The Beatles, Gerry Rafferty and Billy Connolly.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and John Byrne unveil the artwork for her official 2017 Christmas Card at St Margaret’s House on December 5, 2017.

“His work is held in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

“Born in Paisley and trained at the Glasgow School of Art, his own image was a signature of Scotland. He recreated it over and over in the self-portraits which made his finely cultivated appearance instantly recognisable, wreathed in cigarette smoke, his hooded, often sleep-deprived eyes twinkling with self-aware amusement.

“‘Paisley Buddies’ are, to a man and a woman, total oddballs, I should know, I’m one of them,’ John said once.

“But it was an oddity seen through a prism of the fantastic and John made magic out of himself.

“The family are grateful for your understanding of their need for privacy at this time.”

In 1958, John Byrne was accepted to the Glasgow School of Art and went on to win the Newbery Medal for best final year student and the Bellahouston travelling scholarship, which allowed him to study in Italy.

He returned to AF Stoddard & Co. as a carpet designer, teaching evening classes at the Glasgow School of Art and during this time, he sent a small painting to London’s Portal Gallery, pretending it was the work of his father.

This provided the inspiration for his play, The Slab Boys, which debuted in 1983 in New York and included performances by then-unknown actors Kevin Bacon, Sean Penn, and Val Kilmer.

He has also designed sets and written several plays, and went on to achieve further literary success, writing two dramas – Tutti Frutti and Your Cheatin Heart – credited for launching the careers of Scottish superstar Robbie Coltraine and Emma Thompson.

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