This week I decided to do something for myself and go to the Jack Vettriano exhibition at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. It is a very good deal at £5 for adults and £3 for concessions and many of his paintings are gathered together thanks to the people who bought them allowing them to be on loan. They hang in thematic groupings to make it easy to see at a glance periods, muses and patterns.
Vettriano calls himself a lucky amateur as his work came into its own with very little formal instruction. His work is done from photographs which he has commissioned. Originally he copied from different parts of an art book intended to help people trying to get their proportions right for The Singing Butler and this has proven controversial amongst the chattering classes but it was his composition, his execution and it helped him to work out what worked, and what sold.
There are certain truisms about Vettriano, his women will have dark hair, be smoking or holding something in their hands, be wearing Capri pants, tight skirts or something very sexualised and have a look of the fifties about them. The men will be gallus in braces or Fedoras and have that whole dark clothing thing going on and look predatory. Vettriano is inspired by song lyrics so, for example, Blue Blue was inspired by David Bowie and Dance Me To The End Of Love was from Leonard Cohen. Hands in some paintings don’t quite work – they are foreshortened or flipper-like and you can’t take your eyes away – but mostly when holding something they are not distracting.
Seeing the actual paintings and not the prints is worthwhile – the working of the paint is something you never quite get until you see the real thing. Some have said that he objectifies women – Alice Jones wrote in The Independent that Vettriano has been labelled a chauvinist whose “women are sexual objects, frequently half naked and vulnerable, always in stockings and stilettos.” – but I did not feel objectified by what I saw. There were certainly lots of men gathered in the “Red room” but they were attempting to talk loftily about Vettriano’s views on Independence while avoiding the eyes of the real women in the room.
Refreshingly, Vettriano is a painter who doesn’t mind admitting that he likes to make money and from the names of the paintings on loan, he sells to the great and the good – for more money than I could shake a stick at.
The exhibition is cleverly set out – as most are these days – so that you exit by the shop so that you can pick up a glass polisher, fridge magnet, book or print to remind you of your visit. I bought three prints for my hallway. I’ve placed them quite differently to the way they were displayed in the exhibition but they tell their own story here too.
Winter Light and Lavender
In Thoughts of You