South Scotland

Sir Sean Connery nude on public display for first time

Sean Connery painting
Sir Sean Connery posed for the painting before his acting breakthrough

A nude painting of Sir Sean Connery discovered in a Scottish Borders artist's unseen collection is to go on public display for the first time.

It was painted in 1951 when the James Bond star was working as an unknown nude model for Edinburgh students.

The oil on canvas was discovered by relatives of artist Rab Webster, who died last year aged 83.

The painting will be part of an exhibition starting on Saturday in Mr Webster's home town of Selkirk.

The former art teacher was a student at Edinburgh College of Art when Sir Sean posed for students shortly before his acting breakthrough.

The Connery work will be part of a selection of Mr Webster's art going on display at Halliwell's House Museum's Oor Rob exhibition.

Scottish Borders Council's visual arts officer Elizabeth Hume said: "I read about the discovery of the Sir Sean Connery painting last year.

"I also noted Rab had never held an exhibition before.

"I am always on the lookout for quirky and interesting exhibitions for the museum and felt Rab's paintings and story fitted the bill."

'Professional standard'

Ms Hume said she had a "personal interest" in the project as she had also been a student at Edinburgh College of Art.

"Unfortunately Sean Connery was not a model when I was there," she said.

She added that she could not understand why the works had never been exhibited before.

"It is quite strange because the paintings are very impressive and of a professional standard," she said.

"It was hard to say where a lot of his works were painted as there are no dates or locations on the canvases, which is strange as most paintings include these details in order to sell them.

"We had to rely on the family's knowledge to identify a lot of them.

"But we felt the exhibition was important as many people in the area either knew Rab or were taught by him."

Mr Webster stopped producing paintings after 1968 and many friends and family were unaware of his huge accumulation of pictures.

Donated paintings

Nick Bihel, who is married to Rab's niece Heather, explained why he suddenly stopped his prolific art career.

He said: "He just had so many other interests. But I know he never sold a single painting or held any exhibitions of his own work.

"He would donate the odd painting now and again to a charity but that was all."

Mr Bihel said he remembered his wife's uncle telling him about Sir Sean posing for the students.

"He said Connery treated it just as a job and that he didn't say very much," he said.

The painting was part of a pile of works found stacked in the studio Mr Webster used as a dark room.

The Oor Rob exhibition at the Robson Gallery at Halliwell's House Museum runs until 14 August.

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