At the request of reader Emily Peck, today's "Feel Art Again" post features Jack Vettriano's popular painting, "The Singing Butler." Vettriano's enormous success came as a surprise even to himself—he has remarked, "I get all the more pleasure because I never thought it was going to happen." Some background on his life and career:
1. Having left school at age 16, Jack Vettriano never attended art school. Instead, he is completely self-taught, having taken 14 years since he first received a set of watercolors to hone his skills before showing any of his artwork. Of how he learned to paint, Vettriano has said, "I trained myself to paint by copying other artists"¦ I put all these different styles in a pot and there was a certain alchemy that took place and it created my individual style. Something unique came out, and I'm very grateful for that."
2. Today, "The Singing Butler" is a wildly popular and commercially successful painting: it sells more posters and postcards than any other work in the UK and the original canvas sold at auction for Â£744,500 four years ago. It was rejected by the Royal Academy, though, when Vettriano submitted it for the summer show in 1992.
3. A music video made by the indie Scottish band Saint Jude's Infirmary for BBC Scotland's "The Music Show" features Vettriano and visually references both "The Singing Butler" and "Elegy for a Dead Admiral," another Vettriano painting. The video is for the song "Goodbye Jack Vettriano," which Saint Jude's Infirmary member Grant Campbell wrote when he spotted a Vettriano print on a pub wall while he was homesick in Rotterdam. Vettriano has described the song as "really brilliant" and has created a painting to be featured as the cover of the band's second album. (He's also featured on the album.)
4. Vettriano established a scholarship at St. Andrew's University in 2004 for students who otherwise wouldn't be able to attend college, like he himself wasn't able to. A Jack Vettriano Scholar is appointed every four years; the first began studies in September 2004, so the second would have begun this year. Vettriano has a long-standing relationship with St. Andrew's, having also refurbished the Student Association's Old Union Coffee Bar in 2002, been involved in student fashion shows, and been named an (honorary) Doctor of Letters.
5. Vettriano's success has come at a cost. According to some sources, the success and attention he received after his first Royal Scottish Academy show contributed to the break-up of his marriage. Fellow Scottish artists are jealous of the commercial success Vettriano has achieved, to which Vettriano replies, "Artists say, how can I get only X for my work and Vettriano gets X thousand for his? Think, you stupid bugger. It's not a bit about being a better painter than me, it's about market forces." Additionally, he's been passed over by the National Galleries of Scotland and much of the art establishment.
A larger version of "The Singing Butler" is available here.