Jack Vettriano is perhaps the most controversial and talked about living artist. Pretty much everybody in the UK, and possibly further afield, has either heard of Vettriano, or at the very least seen at least one of his paintings - the Singing Butler. This particular work at one time held the record for the highest price for any Scottish painting (£744,800) and the reproductions are the best-selling art prints in the UK.
Often called 'The People's Painter' by the British Press, he has been rejected by the art establishment with art critics sceptic in their opinion of Jack Vettriano's work - perhaps because Vettriano is entirely self-taught and did not attend art school? The Guardian art critic, Jonathan Jones, wrote of Vettriano's work in 2004: "Vettriano is not even an artist. He just happens to be popular, with ordinary people" and described his work as "brainless". The Scottish art historian Duncan Macmillan called Vettriano's work “dim erotica” and Sandy Moffat, head of drawing and painting at Glasgow School of Art, said: "He can’t paint, he just colours in."
Most infamously, it emerged in 2005 that Jack had copied poses for The Singing Butler directly from a sourcebook, The Illustrator’s Figure Reference Manual. Vettriano’s detractors considered this revelation was proof of artistic fraudulence. Vettriano was unrepentant saying, “Picasso said, ‘Other artists borrow — I steal.' And the same book I used was found in Francis Bacon’s studio when he died!”
Born in Fife, Scotland, Jack Vettriano left school at sixteen to become a mining engineer. He picked up his first paintbrush at 22 after his girlfriend had given him a set of watercolours. He trained himself by obsessively copying Monet, Caravaggio, photos and anything he could get my hands on. In 1987, when he was 36, Vettriano left his wife Gail, seeking to emulate Paul Gauguin. He quit his job in educational research, and moved to Edinburgh, where he adopted his mother's maiden name. He applied to study Fine Art at the University of Edinburgh, but his portfolio was rejected.
In 1989, Vettriano submitted two paintings to the Royal Scottish Academy’s annual exhibition; both were accepted and sold on the first day. The following year, an equally enthusiastic reaction greeted the three paintings which he entered for the prestigious Summer Exhibition at London’s Royal Academy. Jack's new life as a painter begun. Over the last twenty years, interest in Vettriano’s work has grown consistently. There have been sell-out solo exhibitions in Edinburgh, London, Hong Kong and New York.
Finally the art establishment woke up to the popular opinion of Vettriano's work when in November 2011 when Vettriano's self-portrait 'The Weight' went on long-term display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh; the first time he had exhibited at a national gallery.
A major Retrospective exhibition to mark 20 Years of Vettriano’s career, opened at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow on the 21st September 2013 and ran until 23rd February 2014.
2010 Johnnie Walker Blue Label Great Scot Award
2003 Awarded an honorary degree by the University of St Andrews
2003 Awarded an OBE for Services to the Visual Arts