Ah, the (very) occasional Famous Langtonians series returns. Today, Jack Vettriano.
At the top of Kirkcaldy High Street there is a frame shop. For such a long time, probably years, whenever I looked into the window there would be a frame there with a picture in it. It might even still be there. That there is a frame in the window of a frame shop isn’t surprising.
Then I heard of Jack Vettriano, or Jack Hoggan to be precise (Vettriano is his mother’s maiden name; presumably having an exotic name like Vettriano makes it easier for medicore artists to be noticed). I can’t even remember what the first Vettriano painting I saw was. It might have been The Singing Butler, or one of the other ones that actually look quite similar anyway.
Anyway, I saw this picture on the television and I thought, “that looks really familiar; where do I know that picture from?” Then it dawned on me. It is the picture that’s in the window of the frame shop. I always thought that was just some kind of demonstration picture, to sort of say, “look, this is what you do with a frame — you put a picture in it. But maybe put your own one in.” Like those photograph frames that already come with a generic smiling blonde 4-year-old girl.
I’m not big on art really. But of course I know what I like. And I don’t like Jack Vettriano’s paintings. I always found The Singing Butler weird. I mean, why is the guy holding the umbrella like that. Have you ever seen anybody hold an umbrella like that? And what’s meant to be so “erotic” about his paintings? They’re about as erotic as chicken soup. They look kind of flat and boring. As I said, like a generic demonstration picture or something. Like, oooh, maybe something from a how-to-draw book
Like twee chart music, though, people like the easy-going stuff, and Vettriano is one of the world’s most commercially successful painters. This is despite being snubbed by every art gallery in the land, apart from that one that’s next to the train station in Kirkcaldy (which is, incidentally, meant to be one of Michael Portillo’s favourite galleries!).
Vettriano, and others, said that this the fact that major galleries ignored him was just snobbery; that the fancy-pants galleries wouldn’t display Vettriano’s paintings because he came from a working class background, or because he was self-taught, or because you can buy the same bloody painting on a poster for a fiver from the art shop down the road. Despite his huffing and puffing he told The Guardian last year:
I would rather my paintings sold to ordinary people, rather than being stacked in a store house at the National Gallery.
Because so many ordinary people can buy a painting for six-figure sums, of course.
I made a mistake going to university. I’ll just get the tracing paper out and say I’ve “created a new narrative” then flog it for millions. Quids in!
[The Singing Butler] was one of these paintings I ought not to have been able to do. It was like I cheated. It was 1992, I was hardly in the back door of the art world when I did it.