It was the worst massacre on European soil since the Second World War and saw 8,000 Muslim men and boys brutally slaughtered by Bosnian Serb troops under the command of Ratko Mladic.

Now Scots artist Peter Howson has unveiled a new painting in Glasgow to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre that took place during the Bosnian Civil War.

During the ceremony, Howson revealed that he still cannot bear to talk about the terrible events he witnessed as an artist recording the conflict.

Howson, 61, was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to record the conflict in the former Yugoslavia in 1992, and a year later was appointed official British war artist for Bosnia.

He painted The Massacre of Srebrenica, as he felt a need to commemorate 25 years since the atrocity.

Mladic was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2017 for his role at Srebrenica.

The new artwork was unveiled at St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, where it will remain, on loan to Glasgow Museums, for an initial threeyear period.

Howson, who oversaw its installation, said: “It is difficult to put into words the horror of the massacre of over 8,000 men and boys in the town of Srebrenica during the Bosnian civil war.

“I was there as a war artist during this time and witnessed what I can only describe as hell on earth.

“The experience caused me many years of illness and the breakup of my family. I still have memories too painful to talk about, but I find that painting these terrible events helps me to try and understand why we do such evil things to each other.

“This painting records a moment in European history; a memory in my mind’s eye of what happened that day.

“The painting portrays people who are dead and people, many of whom are young boys, ready to die. I tried to capture the fear on their faces and the twisting contortions of bodies awaiting execution with a bullet.

“Very little film of the prelude to death is recorded. It would have been different if it happened today in the age of the smartphone.

“The perpetrators show no emotion, just a will to get the job done. The beauty of the countryside is a chilling juxtaposition to the horror of the scene.

“The whole thing is witnessed by a little girl who has climbed a tree. There is not much more you can say. Did the soldiers really believe they were pleasing their God by doing this?”

One of the “New Glasgow Boys” who emerged from the Glasgow School of Art in the 1980s, Howson is one of his generation’s leading figurative painters, renowned for his penetrating insight into the human condition.

His work has been collected by celebrities including Madonna, Mick Jagger, Jack Nicholson, Robbie Coltrane and the late David Bowie. The debut of his latest canvas is a highlight in a wider programme of commemorations taking place across Glasgow and beyond in 2020 to commemorate the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.

Harry Dunlop, learning and access curator with Glasgow Museums, who worked with Howson’s team to bring the artwork to St Mungo Museum, said: “We are hugely indebted to Peter Howson for loaning this extremely powerful painting to Glasgow Museums.

“It hangs in St Mungo’s most prominent space because we hope it, together with other works on show, will raise awareness of the need to recognise prejudice, extremism and exclusion and the hatred it creates, and ultimately take action to end it.”

Throughout his career, Howson has interwoven themes of conflict and destruction, human suffering and redemption in his imaginative portrayals of contemporary British society.

Influenced by witnessing the brutal and personally harrowing realities of combat as an official war artist, Howson’s paintings have since been founded on increasingly nightmarish visions of chaos and atrocity, and populated by a cast of fantastic, grotesque characters.

In a recent BBC Scotland documentary, he said his experiences in Bosnia made him “go mental” and ended his marriage to second wife Terry in 1994. He said: “I used to think it would be great if everyone was transported to a war zone to see what it was like. I used to think that when I was in Bosnia.

“If anything made me go mental that was it. That’s what really finished off the marriage as well – I was on a different planet after Bosnia. “It was heading that way anyway but Bosnia was the catalyst - that was the final straw.”

Mr Dunlop added: “Peter’s work is difficult to look at, but that is the point of having it at St Mungo’s.

“We must continue to learn from past atrocities and ensure younger generations know how to recognise the signs of intolerance and the violence it generates wherever in the world it occurs and take action to stop it.”