WHY WE SHOULD BE PROUD OF Jack Vettriano; in the Week the Secret of His Technique Was Exposed-

Daily Mail (London), October 5, 2005 | Go to article overview

WHY WE SHOULD BE PROUD OF Jack Vettriano; in the Week the Secret of His Technique Was Exposed-


Byline: TIM LUCKHURST

ON the wall above my desk as I write this is a copy of a picture by Jack Vettriano.

I t depicts two men in 1940s-style suits and hats, playing cards at what looks like a seaside cafe.

I do not know what it is called but I remember vividly how I got it. My wife bought it for me as a 40th birthday present. She considers the subjects handsome and the setting romantic. When she gave it to me, she told me it reminded her of a delightful holiday we took together shortly after we first fell in love.

I imagine a lot of Jack Vettriano's art has been given for similar reasons.

His bold, apparently simple, imagery has a tremendous power to convey feeling. It evokes in me sentiments similar to the ones I experience listening to Verdi's Forza Del Destino or reading Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Vettriano understands passion and jealousy.

He uses stylised situations to express images of longing. He has an acute eye for the raw passion that often lurks just beneath the surface of ostensibly formal occasions.

So, when I learned that Vettriano taught himself to draw the human form by studying an art manual I was not concerned, still less appalled. He started his working life as a coal miner. It does not take vast powers to imagine the sort of ribbing he must have taken from colleagues when they first learned that he wanted to be an artist. It took real courage for him to start from scratch and teach himself to paint. I am very grateful that he started by learning the basics of form, composition and perspective he needed in order to realise his own potential.

Many of the current generation of alternative artists ignore these techniques entirely. They know that previous generations of artists studied intensely in order to take images from life and reproduce them on canvas.

They recognise the hard work involved in perfecting that process.

But they resent it in Vettriano because he did not learn it at university or art college. He did not even have the humility (or the money) to approach a private tutor. Instead, he did what generations of autodidacts have done and forced himself to study first principles.

Jack Vettriano was not the first creative genius to adopt this approach.

Shakespeare was largely self-taught. George Orwell believed that he lacked the aptitude for university and his family certainly lacked the wealth. He taught himself to write fiction by painstaking practice. His early descriptive technique was learned from the work of predecessors.

Eventually, he honed the talent for plain English that made his later novels bestsellers.

Vettriano is similar. He is not popular because elite opinionformers recommend his work.

His success is based upon millions of decisions by millions of ordinary people. We buy his work because we adore it. It takes talent to persuade a hardworking family to spend money on something as inessential as a picture - but Vettriano achieves it with every image he creates.

Jealous critics have suggested the value of Vettriano originals will collapse now his fans know he borrowed images from a textbook. That is ludicrous. His most popular work, The Singing Butler, is not the bestselling print in Europe because the figures in it are anatomically convincing. It sells because it is vibrant with charm, romance and erotic potential. The setting and the story it creates in our imaginations are entirely the product of his imagination.

So why the resentment that oozes so obnoxiously from the smarter artistic salons and the many galleries that refuse to display Vettriano's paintings?

Why the vile, snobbish glee of a Scottish artistic hierarchy that has repeatedly refused to include his pictures in national exhibitions and sneers at him with blatant loathing? …

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