The arguments over whether Jack Vettriano’s work merited a place in a national gallery were rehearsed years ago, and although the Methil artist’s work was eventually put on public display beyond Kirkcaldy Galleries – the Scottish National Portrait Gallery displayed a self-portrait from 2011 – he has always been shunned by the art establishment. Criticism directed at him has often been savage and personal.
It is easy to spot the flaws in the work of this self-taught artist, but his detractors were ultimately damning the public, for having the poor sense to like Vettriano’s work. It was not Vettriano who forced his work to wider attention and stuck it under the noses of the disapproving; instead, it was those who admired it, wanted it, and bought it, who propelled it to prominence.
Today, a poll rates a Vettriano painting higher than several of Britain’s greatest ever (‘proper’) artists. We should take that finding with a pinch of salt, but it is a reminder that whatever we think of the standard of his work, Vettriano holds more attraction for the average person in the street than many of the classics. Let his work be enjoyed.