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Jack Vettriano – The Early Years

06 June

Year of Stories

He might be one of Scotland’s most successful painters, but Jack Vettriano isn’t your typical artist. This Fifer didn’t hone his craft at a prestigious art school, but instead learned the hard way, on his own by trial and error.&

His remarkable career is proof that with talent, dedication and hard work, there are no barriers to success.

This year a new exhibition titled - Jack Vettriano: The Early Years goes on display at Kirkcaldy Galleries, giving an insight into the artist’s journey and telling a story of transformation from hobby painter to world-famous artist.

In 2004, Vettriano hit the headlines when The Singing Butler sold at auction for £744,800, breaking the record for any Scottish painting ever sold. At the time, the artwork was already 12 years old and had originally failed to garner interest from large art establishments. When the Royal Scottish Academy turned Vettriano down for displaying the piece at its summer exhibition, he had settled on selling it privately for just a few thousand pounds.

Since then, the general public has proved that the opinion of critics isn’t the only thing that matters, with Vettriano reproductions selling far and wide. He may now have been a record-breaking artist for both individual price and quantity of images sold, but the only Scottish gallery that owned one of his pieces was Kirkcaldy.

It was at least a fitting location since Vettriano’s origins lie in East Fife. His adult life began by following his father and grandfather down the coalmines, a conventional career but one that clearly didn’t suit. Equally uninspiring jobs followed until one day everything changed when a girlfriend gifted Vettriano a set of watercolours.

A new passion had been unlocked that would transform his life. Trips to art galleries offered inspiration and textbooks provided the material needed to hone this fledgling skill. He painted tirelessly, often by copying famous scenes and these earlier works were all signed with the artist’s birth name – Jack Hoggan.

As he became more confident, it was time to draw a line under his old work and strike out in a new direction. Jack Hoggan left his portfolio and his surname behind, now choosing to be known by his mother’s maiden name of Vettriano.

His name may have changed, but Vettriano’s roots were still very evident in his art. Landscapes such as Leven Beach are immediately recognisable in the scenes that dominate his most iconic paintings.

Kirkcaldy Galleries was a place of inspiration for a young Jack Hoggan, therefore it’s a fitting place to display some of his earliest artwork. The story has come full circle now and for four months, visitors can appreciate familiar scenes like The Billy Boys alongside older pieces never seen before and signed “Jack Hoggan”.

The exhibition contains one additional, fascinating feature aside from the paintings. A very curt rejection letter from art school. Moments like that can be pivotal in a person’s career and it begs an interesting question.

Would Jack Vettriano be nearly as successful as he is today if his art had been developed in a classroom rather than his front room?

Storytelling by Scotland's Stories

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