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Vettriano's 'biscuit tin' paintings earn £2.5m at Scottish auction.  September 3, 2004

Maev Kennedy, arts and heritage correspondent
The Guardian


Huge interest: Jack Vettriano's Mad Dogs, 1991, fetched ?330,400. Photo: Sotheby's

An auction of 40 paintings by Jack Vettriano, a self-taught artist snubbed by national collections, has raised ?2.5m at Sotheby's in Scotland.
The highest sum paid was ?330,400 for Mad Dogs - painted in 1991 when he was selling work for a few hundred pounds.

Two other works, Shades of Scarlet and Thoughts of You, each sold for more than ?200,000.

The auction, with other sales this year, has put Vettriano in the pantheon of earnings by living British artists, not far behind David Hockney and Lucian Freud.

The 53-year-old former chef, barman and mining engineer learned to paint with a birthday present set of watercolours in a Fife bedsit. Critics sneer at his "biscuit tin" art, but reproductions of his works now outsell Picasso and Monet.

The record price for his art was set earlier this year when his most famous painting, The Singing Butler (originally sold for ?3,000), went for ?744,800. Vettriano earns more in annual royalties for that one image than most artists do in a lifetime; it has sold about 3m posters, not to mention cards, T-shirts, jigsaws and umbrellas.

Admirers of his nostalgically elegant figures, often depicted in sultry light by glimmering seas, include Sir Terence Conran, the actors Jack Nicholson and Robbie Coltrane, the chef Raymond Blanc, and the writer AL Kennedy.

The sale of The Singing Butler persuaded several owners to put their Vettrianos on the market, and there was speculation his bubble had burst when only five of eight paintings sold last month.

But at the Sotheby's auction, at the Gleneagles hotel in Perthshire, Andrew Zlattinger, the head of the auction house's Scottish division, said interest in Vettriano was "huge".

The artist has been awarded an OBE - but when ITV's South Bank Show devoted a programme to him, the directors of both the Tate and the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art turned down invitations to discuss his work.
 

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