Jack Vettriano was born in Scotland in 1954. He had no formal art school training. At the age of twenty-one he started to paint in his spare time. It was not until 1989 that he felt confident enough to show any of his work in public and submitted two canvases for the Royal Scottish Academy’s annual exhibition. Both paintings were accepted, hung and sold. The following year three paintings were accepted by The Royal Academy in London for the Summer Exhibition. This public exposure of his paintings led to invitations from various galleries to exhibit his work.
1992 Tales of Love and Other Stories Edinburgh Gallery, Edinburgh
1993 Fallen Angels Catto Gallery, London
1993 Summers Remembered Corrymella Scott Gallery, Newcastle
1994 Chimes at Midnight Portland Gallery, London
1994 After Midnight Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg
1995 A Date with Fate Edinburgh Festival, Edinburgh
1996 The Passion and the Pain Portland Gallery, London
1996 Halfway to Paradise Portland Gallery at The Museum Annex, Hong Kong
1997 Small Paintings and Studies Portland Gallery at Edinburgh Festival Edinburgh
1998 Between Darkness and Dawn Portland Gallery, London
1999 International 20th Century Arts Fair Portland Gallery at The Armory, New York
2000 Lovers and Other Strangers Portland Gallery, London
2001 International 20th Century Arts Fair Portland Gallery at The Armory, New York
2002 Paintings 1994-2002 Portland Gallery at artLONDON 2002
2003 Limited Edition Silkscreen Prints Portland Gallery, London
2004 Affairs of the Heart Portland Gallery, London
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W. Gordon Smith: “From coal to oil to watercolours,” Scotland on Sunday, 28, 1991.
Scotland on Sunday: “Corporate Investment in a Painter’s Life,” May 1991
Alasdair Riley: “The career that Jack built,” Sunday Express magazine, May 1992.
David Black: “Modern art – the colour of your money,” Scottish Field, August 1992.
Richard Jaques: ”Vettriano captures the emotions of a bygone epoch,” The Scotsman, May 1992.
Barbara Stoeltie: “Schots en Schokklend,” Avenue, April 1993
David Whetstone: “The art of seduction,” The Journal, November 1993.
Anne Sebba: “Jack Vettriano paints the louche underside of life,” Tatler 1993.
W Gordon Smith Ed.: “Fallen Angels,” Pavilion Books, Published October 1 994
Rachel Sim: “Artist in Residence,” Telegraph Magazine, October 1994.
Gillian Ferguson: “Freeze frame images of Fallen Angels,” Sunday Times, November 1994.
Robbie Dunwoodie: “The long goodbye to the rat race,” The Herald Weekend October 1994.
Kathleen Morgan: “Play it again, Jack,” The List, October 1994.
Gillian Glover: “The style that Jack built,” The Scotsman Magazine, November 1994.
Adrian Johnson: “Home is where the art is,” The Scotsman, March 1994.
Alistair McCay: “Jack of one trade,” Scotland on Sunday, August 1995.
Duncan Macmillan: “Nostalgia Okay …” The Scotsman, 22 August 1995.
Aileen Little: “And the drama will now unfold,” The Glasgow Herald, October 1995.
Godfrey Barker: “A Fin de Siecle in Art,” The Daily Telegraph, February Teddy Jamieson: “Love Scenes”, GQ Magazine, June 1996.
“Vettriano has been featured in many radio programmes, including “The Usual Suspects”, “Postscript” and –Midweek” on Radio 4. He was the subject of a Scottish Television “Talking Pictures” documentary by Vivien Hamilton and was also interviewed by Alan Campbell for Scottish Television’s Arts series. He has been a guest on Eve Pollard’s programme “Sky Book Show” for Sky Television and his work was featured in BBC2’s coverage of the 1995 Edinburgh Arts Festival.
Jack Vettriano lives alone in an elegant Georgian house at the heart of Scotland’s capital. Like so much of his work it has a distinctive period element. Painting in a cold north light he relaxed in suggestive candlelight. He is tall and slim, wears suits and braces, and doesn’t like “jeans and trainers and the way young folk dress”. Maybe he is more Italian than he thinks.
Vettriano the technical realist is a finalist. He is of that last generation of victims of the Hollywood dream factory – whose local flea-pits changed the menu of B-movies three times a week. His people are set in some timeless limbo, caught up in crises of their own devising, victims of insistent passion, whipped by winds on sunny beaches, lurking in sinister racecourse shadows, threatened by the consequences of extravagant behaviours, paying dearly for carnal follies.
Chiaroscuro means the expression of light and shade to every painter, but he uses it to coax us into shadows where mysteries are whispered. He is a spinner of webs, an eavesdropper, a voyeur with his own keyhole on life, sees all and judges nothing. His work stalks the fuzzy boundaries between virtue and vice, innocence and corruption. His small tumescent dramas are played out by characters from more soigne times, when what used to be called the libidinous urges of the flesh provoked naughty parables. He is a moralist who preaches only witty, ironic sermons about seduction and betrayal, about guilt and the pincer jaws of love. He is sardonic without malice.
It would be interesting to learn how much Moravia and Simenon he has read, and if Anais Nin costumes his dreams. Does he know the photography of Brassai, and how long has he looked at Sickert and Hopper? If people suggest to him that he paints like other painters – naming names – he shrugs with calculated complacency. He absorbed lessons from Goya (his manipulation of light), Boudin (these blustery beaches), and Cadell and Manet (their homage to elegant woman).
Slowly but surely, and in every canvas with more certainty, he becomes the Vettriano he wants to be. If it is a wonder that he has managed to teach himself drawing, perspective, the manipulation of paint in veiled glazes and haunted shadows, the music of colour and the dramatic focus of composition; it is even more remarkable that he has evolved such an identifiable personal style. Despite his lack of instruction, his own natural accomplishment and master painters have made him obedient to classical techniques and discipline.
There is nothing lascivious or remotely pornographic about the louche eroticism which gives Vettriano’s work such sexual tension. His figurative essays on human frailty are anecdotal, verging on the surrealist. Even when they are fully clothed you know what his ladies look like beneath their silks and satins. Yet nothing is ever entirely what it seems. His clocks might strike 13. In his fin-de-siecle half-world of sinister men and stripped women, wagered bargains are struck and broken. We know that the cheat with the ace of diamonds will get his wicked way. But is the woman ascending from the underground on her way to that furtive consummation in the bedroom? Surely there is more to the chap with the mannequins than the plight of a mere fetishist. And why does shadow or the brim of a hat so prevent us seeing his subject eye-to-eye?
Some of these tales without texts are semi-autobiographical. The background of some beach scenes, green tea-room pavilions, stood in the dunes of his childhood. The reflected images at low tide could be anywhere. But when it comes to his dramatic personae you are invited to write your own script and cast your own actors. And he wonders if people who stop to cast second looks at scenes of temptation and betrayal might betray something about themselves. Let those who say they have not at one time or another contemplated such dalliance, cross their hearts and hope to die.”
copyright W. Gordon Smith, August 1995
“Jack Vettriano has the ability to make you feel nostalgic for things you actually experienced in the first place. He takes you back to a mood and time that you know so well although you were never there. When you first look at one of his paintings you are an outsider, illicitly observing a cool, shy world of edgy romance and sexual tension. The men are tougher than those you know, the women more unavailable. After a while you can see behind confident poses and languid come-ons; these are people no more in control of their destinies than you are of yours. Maybe you have been where Vettriano’s subjects are – it’s just that the lighting and suitcases, beaches and party frocks are different. You are an insider. Maybe the time is here and now.
Jack Vettriano’s paintings make you wonder what will happen next; none are static. Every picture is an episode – in a romance that is about to explode, or in a conquest that is about to be consummated, although who will conquer whom is never clear. He evokes an era of Hollywood, but no film of that town’s heyday was made with Vettriano’s burning colour. Those great movies remain in their time, these paintings are of many times – the clothes and backdrops are beautiful ornaments that could pinpoint a year, but the faces are universal, of any, or of every, of the past fifty years.
In less than ten years Vettriano has moved into the front rank of contemporary artists. Others there (but by no means all) may match his technical skills but he has the much rarer gifts of realism and humour. Human failings and foibles are not portrayed in the easy way, through squalor and loathing of his subject, but rather subtly. His men and women may win through, may come to a sticky end, but either way they will do so with glamour and style. There is hope even in his seediest settings which is why he has accessibility without compromise.”
Tim Rice March 1996
Introduction to “The Passion and the Pain” catalogue, The Portland Gallery, 1996