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.