In less than ten years, Jack Vettriano has emerged from obscurity to become Britain’s foremost contemporary narrative painter despite having never received any formal art school training.
Born in St Andrews, Scotland in 1954, Vettriano left school at sixteen to become a mining engineer in the local coalfields. For his twenty- first birthday, a girlfriend gave him a set of watercolour paints and, from then on, he spent much of his spare time teaching himself to paint. The local art gallery, The Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery, with its renowned collection of 19th and 20th century Scottish paintings, was particularly inspirational. It was fourteen years before Vettriano felt ready to show any of his work in public. In 1989 he offered two works 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. In the last nine years, interest in, and desire for his work, has grown rapidly. There have been sell-out solo exhibitions in Edinburgh, London, Hong Kong and Johannesburg. In November 1999, Vettriano’s work was shown for the first time in New York, when twenty paintings were displayed at The International 20th Century Arts Fair at The Armory. Fifty collectors from the UK flew out for the opening night of the Fair and all twenty paintings were sold out within an hour of the opening. In March 2000, BBC Scotland produced a half-hour documentary about Vettriano for their Arts Series EX-S; aired initially in Scotland only, the documentary is likely to be aired UK-wide later this year. Vettriano’s last major exhibition, Lovers and Other Strangers, was at the Portland Gallery in London in June 2000. After its London run, the exhibition transferred on loan to The Kirkcaldy Museum & Art Gallery in Fife. Attendance figures indicated that more people visited the Museum during the Vettriano exhibition than had done so in the whole of the previous year. A book about the artist was published to coincide with this exhibition.
The Singing Butler is Jack Vettriano’s best selling print. Vettriano has made millions from this single image. His art deco style captures the public’s imagination. Published by Pavilion Books, Lovers and Other Strangers features over 100 paintings selected from the work of the last ten years and biographical text by Anthony Quinn. In 2010 the new Jack Vettriano exhibition, Days of Wine and Roses, started in Kirkcaldy before transferring to London and Milan Jack Vettriano gifts In September 2001, Vettriano donated a painting to a charity auction, which was held at Sotheby’s in aid of Help the Hospices.
Night in the City is one of the artist’s sexy images, still available as a limited edition print. The painting, Beautiful Dreamer, was the second highest bid for Lot, making £25,000. UK Portland Gallery exhibited twenty- one paintings at artLONDON, an annual contemporary art fair, in May 2002. All twenty-one paintings were sold within the first hour of the opening night. Aside from his exhibitions, Vettriano has acquired a vast following through the posters and prints of his paintings that are distributed worldwide. This year the two best selling art posters in Britain are both Vettriano images.
Dance me to the End of Love and Dancer in Emerald are 2 of Vettriano’s top selling posters at the moment. To date, more than 1,000,000 posters of Vettriano’s paintings have sold worldwide A University spokesperson said, “It is a privilege for the University to honour one of Scotland’s leading contemporary artists and a particular pleasure to do so because of the amount of time which Jack Vettriano has invested in helping the University’s students fulfil some of their own artistic aspirations.”
Vettriano’s most recent work is the limited edition print Diva, published in June 2020. Diva is in the artist’s typical romantic style, featuring a lady putting on make-up to get ready for a night out.