Published  02/09/2002

Et tu, Vettriano

The painter Jack Vettriano moved some four years ago from Scotland to London, and now lives and works in Chelsea. Vettriano’s maternal grandfather came to Scotland from Italy and drew with a skill which the young Vettriano sought emulate. Self-taught and the son of a Fife coal miner, he eventually enrolled in night classes, inspired by his then mentor and girlfriend, primary school teacher Ruth McIntosh. In the traditional way, Vettriano taught himself to paint by copying the work of Old Masters. In the late l980s, drawing inspiration from film noir, he began to be noticed in Edinburgh. He was championed by the established critic W Gordon Smith. Dr Duncan Macmillan, established historian of Scottish art, begs to differ, and will not acknowledge any skill other than one of populist depiction. Edinburgh duly turned its back on Vettriano, but dealer Tom Hewlett took him up. Vettriano appeals to individuals who have made their personal mark and make their own decisions. Sir Terence Conran commissioned Vettriano to paint the group of oils hanging in his Bluebird Club Restaurant. In New York and London, Vettriano’s moody Hopperesque paintings of suave females and louche males continue to sell off the easel now for around 40,000. Scotland always seems to complain when an initially rejected artist hits the trail of success, southwards and mid-Atlantic, implying some kind of betrayal. But if Vettriano had stayed in Scotland, he would have continued to be pilloried and denigrated by those who know. Or buried in Kirkcaldy. The book, Lovers and Strangers: Paintings by Jack Vettriano, edited by Anthony Quinn, (Pavilion Books) was published in July.

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