Scottish painting voted one of Britain’s most popular works

The Singing Butler, by artist Jack Vettriano. Picture: PA
The Singing Butler, by artist Jack Vettriano. Picture: PA
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It was the painting which set a Scottish record when it sold at auction for nearly £750,000.

Now The Singing Butler by Jack Vettriano has been voted one of Britain’s all-time favourite works of art.

The Fife-born artist’s most famous painting was named third in a nationwide poll behind Banksy’s Balloon Girl and The Hay Wain by John Constable.

Vettriano’s work, which was created 25 years ago, was voted ahead of paintings by Turner, Lowry and Waterhouse.

Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North and Sir Peter Blake’s Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover for The Beatles also made the top 10.

Vettriano was the only Scottish artist to make the shortlist for The Frame National Art Audit, which was commissioned by Samsung.

Classic album covers for The Sex Pistols and Pink Floyd were judged alongside work by contemporary artists like Andy Goldsworthy, David Hockney and Anish Kapoor.

Born Jack Hoggan in St Andrews, Vettriano, who taught himself to paint, was brought up in the Fife seaside town of Methil.

He left school at 16 to become an apprentice mining engineer and also had a spell as a bingo caller before taking up painting when a then-girlfriend bought him a set of watercolours for his 21st birthday.

He sold his first original works in the late 1980s. In 1989, he submitted two paintings to the Royal Scottish Academy’s annual exhibition; both were accepted and sold on the first day.

Vettriano’s romantic image of a couple dancing on a storm-swept beach, which was rejected by the Royal Academy for its summer exhibition in 1992, was first sold privately for £3,500.

Four years later it changed hands for £5,000 and in 2003 it was sold at auction for £90,000. A fierce bidding war the following year saw The Singing Butler, which had been expected to fetch up to £200,000 eventually go under the hammer for £744,480, more than any other work by a Scottish artist.

It helped attract record numbers of visitors to Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery when it was put on public display in 2013 as part of a major 
retrospective of the artist’s career.

Almost a third of those to vote in the Samsung survey, commissioned to coincide with the launch of a new TV which becomes a work of art when it is not being used, voted for The Singing Butler, in the poll, which saw half of the shortlist drawn from the 20th and 21st centuries.

A spokeswoman for Samsung said: “The nation’s love of sculpture, public art and record sleeves meant that only half the top 20 works were traditional paintings or drawings. Installations by the likes of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin failed to connect with the public and did not make the top 20.”