Jack Vettriano Profile

jack vettriano portrait

No modern artist divides opinion like Jack Vettriano. It seems that the public cannot get enough of his work: it is estimated that he makes over £200,000 every year from posters and prints of his work, and celebrities such as Jack Nicholson, Robbie Coltrane and Terence Conran queue up to buy his work and sing his praises. The critical establishment, on the other hand, is less enthusiastic - prominent critics have described his work as 'soft porn' dismissing it with comments such as, 'he's welcome to paint,as long as nobody takes him seriously'. Is this merely snobbery and fear in action, or do the critics have a valid point?

Vettriano was born in 1951 in Methil, Fife, on the east coast of Scotland, just north of Edinburgh. Like most young men of the era, he left school at 16 to work in the local coalfields, although Vettriano himself is quick to point out that images of him 'lying on his side hewing coal is bloody nonsense'. Vettriano trained and worked as an engineer, before going on to work at the personnel department at the colliery. Eventually he moved on to a job with Manpower Services Commission, a government agency dealing with technical education. He married, bought a house, settled down. In 1988, at the age of 37 , he sold two paintings at a Royal Scottish Academy exhibition, changing his life irrevocably - his marriage broke down under the pressure of his ambition, he quit his job, moved across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh, and changed his name(His given name was actually Jack Hoggan - Vettriano is his mother's maiden name). As a young man, Vettriano was a frequent visitor to the nearby art gallery in the town of Kirkcaldy. Inspired by the works he saw there, and by the gift of a watercolour set, he set about copying the works of old masters - especially Van Gogh and the Impressionists. Without the benefit of formal training, he slowly taught himself how to paint - an application to Edinburgh Art College was rejected without explanation. It took him almost twenty years to get from his first daubings to the sale of his first paintings.

Jack Vettriano is a hugely successful artist in commercial terms. His originals sell for thousands of pounds, often to high profile buyers. But it's the posters and prints that really make money - his most famous painting, 'The Singing Butler', sells more posters in the UK than any other work of art, including the more critically acclaimed works of artists such as Van Gogh. Runner-up in the poster sales chart is a similar Vettriano work, 'Mad Dogs'. He has enjoyed similar success around the world, especially in Japan and the US. The problem with such success, is that artists are supposed to struggle, their talents unrecognised by the world until they are dead or insane. Vettriano's refusal to follow this tradition has resulted in sneering comments from the arts establishment in Scotland. It is impossible to tell if time will be kinder on Jack Vettriano than the Scottish art establishment - perhaps his work will be as highly regarded in a hundred years from now as Van Gogh's or Rembrandt's is now. Possibly it will be forgotten, as the works of artists who struggle penniless now are discovered and held up as masterpieces. But the present ridicule of Vettriano, which has caused him to abandon Scotland for London, is perhaps a shameful indication of how Scotland treats her success stories and self-made men.




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