John Byrne was born in Paisley in 1940 and attended Glasgow School of Art from 1958 – 1963 where he studied painting and was considered a star pupil, winning a scholarship to Italy where he became fascinated by Giotto’s frescoes, and the paintings of Duccio and Cimabue.

In 1965 he was employed as a graphic designer for Scottish TV and over the next few years he also illustrated several book covers for Penguin books and worked as a carpet designer.

In 1967 he sent some paintings to London’s Portal Gallery signing them ‘Patrick’ and claiming that they were by his father, a Glaswegian newspaper seller. They became very popular!

From the early seventies onwards John Byrne’s biography reflects his diverse talents. His paintings were used on record covers by Donovan, Gerry Rafferty, Billy Connolly and The Beatles, creating the painting used as the frontispiece for ‘The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics’. John also designed theatre sets, made an animated film and his first play ‘Writer’s Cramp’ followed by ‘ The Slab Boys’ won him the Evening Standard’s most promising playwright award. In 1983 there was a New York production of ‘The Slab Boys’ with Sean Penn, Val Kilmer and Kevin Bacon.

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In 1986 John wrote the immensely successful television series ‘Tutti Frutti’ starring Robbie Coltrane, Emma Thompson and Richard Wilson. This was followed by another series ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ with Tilda Swinton. In 1993 John’s play about the two Scottish painters ‘Colquhoun and MacBryde’ was produced at the Royal Court. John wrote and directed a film of the ‘Slab Boys’ in 1996. In 1997 twins Honor and Xavier were born to John and Tilda. In the same year John adapted ‘The Government Inspector’ for The Playhouse Company.

In 2000 as an appreciation of one of their most talented sons Paisley Museum put on a major retrospective. The following year he was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list for services to literature and the theatre but returned it in protest at the British Government’s joining forces with the US Administration’s invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq.

In 2004 Byrne wrote ‘Uncle Varrick’ a Scottish adaptation of Uncle Vanya. In 2008 John wrote a fourth play in the Slab Boys series entitled ‘Nova Scotia’, and in 2010 his version of the Cherry Orchard was premiered at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh.

His exhibition ‘The Joyful Mysteries’ held at London’s Fine Art Society in 2012 was a sell-out.

In 2013 John was asked to design and paint the cupola of The Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh.

A self – portrait and portraits of Robbie Coltrane, Billy Connolly and Tilda Swinton hang in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.  His work is held in many other major collections in Scotland and abroad, including the museum of Modern Art, and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

John Byrne