From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Originally Jack Hoggan, he grew up in the industrial seaside town of Methil, Fife. He left school at 16 and later became an apprentice mining engineer. He took up painting as a hobby in his twenties. His earliest paintings were copies or pastiches of impressionist paintings – his first painting was a copy of Monet's Poppy Fields.
Jack only took up painting as a hobby in his twenties when a teacher friend bought him a set of water colours. This is when Jack found his artistic talent. It was 14 years before he felt they were ready to show.
Vettriano's breakthrough year was 1988, when he felt ready to display his paintings in public and submitted two canvases for the Royal Scottish Academy annual show. Both paintings sold on the first day and Vettriano was approached by several galleries who wanted to sell his other work. The success and attention contributed to the breakdown of his first marriage and he moved to Edinburgh, changing his name to Vettriano, adding an "a" to his mother's maiden name.
Although his work is generally dismissed by art critics as being vulgar and devoid of imagination, he is one of the most commercially successful living artists. His original paintings now regularly fetch six figure prices, but he is thought to make more money from the sale of reproductions. According to The Guardian, he earns £500,000 a year in print royalties. Each year a new set of limited edition prints are published, and his most popular work, The Singing Butler, sells more posters and postcards than any other painting in the UK. On 21 April 2004 the original canvas of The Singing Butler sold at auction for £744,500 — in stark contrast to 1992 when Vettriano painted the picture and submitted it for inclusion in the Royal Academy summer show, only to be rejected.
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.
A series of paintings by Vettriano have been sold for more than £1m on 30 August 2007.The top sale was Bluebird at Bonneville, bought for £468,000 at a Sotheby's auction held at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire. The painting had been part of a series commissioned by restrateur Sir Terence Conran for the Bluebird Club which changed hands in 2007.
Vettriano has studios in Scotland and London. He was represented by the Portland Gallery, London from 1993 to 2007 and counts Jack Nicholson, Sir Alex Ferguson, Madonna, Sir Tim Rice and Robbie Coltrane amongst his collectors. In 2003 he was awarded the OBE.
In October 2005, it was "discovered" that figures in some of Vettriano's paintings, including The Singing Butler, were based on figures from an artists' reference manual, The Illustrator's Figure Reference Manual. This revelation did little to tarnish Vettriano's reputation, however, as he has never denied being self-taught. In his early years he didn't have the financial resources to hire models. His talent lies in placing his figures in an unusual narrative context.
Alongside fellow Fifer, author Ian Rankin, Vettriano made a cameo appearance in a video made with the Scottish indie band, Saint Jude's Infirmary, made for BBC Scotland's 'The Music Show'. The video was filmed on Portobello Beach in Edinburgh and included visual references to two of Vettriano's most famous paintings, Elegy for a Dead Admiral and The Singing Butler. The lyrics of the track Goodbye Jack Vettriano were written by band member, Grant Campbell, whilst he was homesick, away in Rotterdam and on seeing a Vettriano print on a pub wall.
Vettriano became a fan of the band after hearing their first album, Happy Healthy Lucky Month and was inspired by the lyrics of Goodbye Jack Vettriano to create a painting which will feature as the cover of the band's forthcoming, second album which is due out in early 2008 and for which both Vettriano and Rankin have contributed spoken word pieces.
Philanthropy and personal life
In 2004, Vettriano set up a scholarship to St Andrew's University to fund a student who would not be able to attend university otherwise. A Jack Vettriano Scholar will be appointed every four years with the first taking up their studies in September 2004.
The endowment follows his financial contribution towards refurbishing the Students Association's Old Union Coffee Bar in 2002 and his involvement in student fashion shows. He was made a Doctor of Letters by the University.
In September 2001, Vettriano donated a painting (Beautiful Dreamer) to a charity auction, which was held at Sotheby’s in aid of Help the Hospices.
He lives in London and Nice.