The 'female Vettriano' who has become a favourite of smart set

THEY are the latest must-haves among Hollywood’s art lovers. Loaded with nostalgia and romance, the sepia-toned, emotionally-charged paintings transport the viewer to a supposedly gentler age.

In high street card shops, the reproduced prints sell by the thousand, while in Bond Street galleries the originals regularly fetch six-figure sums from collectors such as Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Elton John.

Given the similarity of her style and subject matter, it is not surprising that Anne Magill’s haunting, nostalgic work has led many critics to label her the "female Vettriano". But there is one difference: whereas Vettriano is virtually a household name, Magill is largely unknown in the art world.

Next week Magill, 41, will hold her first exhibition in Scotland, and Vettriano collectors are expected to flock to Edinburgh to buy her work.

Despite being critical of Vettriano in the past, saying his work revolves around women as sex objects, it is a comparison she is not uncomfortable with.

"There is room for everybody, and maybe a few years ago when we were both starting out, people saw a similarity, which I can understand. We both have a narrative in our pictures and have had similar upbringings. What happens when you go into print is that people only see the couples that I print. But I do different work than just couples."

Inspired by Edward Hopper, the US realist painter, with whom her work has also been compared, Magill, unlike Vettriano, trained at St Martins College of Art in London. But like Vettriano, she suffered early criticism - in her case from college tutors.

At first she followed their advice, designing book jackets and ads before following her desire to become a painter.

Part of her appeal is her recreation of an inexact bygone age, somewhere between the mid-Thirties and late Fifties. She says her work is not set in any particular period; instead, she tries to capture frozen points of time in a dramatic scene.

"The main theme of my work is about catching those fleeting moments; the idea is for them to be almost quite vague. They come together quite tightly when they are reproduced, but the history of the painting of it is as important to me as the subject matter. There is a lot of texture and re-working to make it vaguer and vaguer and hazier and hazier - it’s more about atmosphere than specific people."

It’s a style that has won her international plaudits. As well selling to corporate collectors, including Nike and British Airways, she is a favourite of the Tory peer Lord Saatchi. Her London gallery, Medici Galleries, has held six sell-out shows of her work, and she has been described by Art Group, her greetings card publisher, as "one of our most significant signings for many years".

She says she takes a lot of inspiration from the landscape, especially the rural Ireland of her childhood. Her family is from Scotland, but she was born and raised on a farm in County Down. These days, she lives near Brighton and has spent a lot of time behind the scenes at Glyndebourne Opera, where she observes the pressure of the backstage.

"Most of my work is about people, there are one or two landscapes. I normally produce 40 paintings a year," she said. "I tend to work quite slowly, and am very, very fussy about what leaves the studio - a lot of my turnover ends up in the bin."

Her latest exhibition, which begins on 12 September, will show 30 paintings, with 20 per cent of the sale proceeds going to the Muir Maxwell Trust. Magill became involved with the charity - she is now an ambassador for it - after being contacted by its founder, Ann Maxwell.

The charity was started in order to raise money for epileptics such as Ms Maxwell’s son Muir, seven, who is unlikely to live past 20.

Ms Maxwell, who has collected Magill’s work for eight years, said: "She is one of the brightest talents in British figurative painting and I am flattered and proud to be associated with Anne. Her unique take on light and colour create a subtle ambience that’s hard to ignore."

Jack Vettriano’s popularity shows no sign of abating. This week, Mad Dogs, completed in the same year as The Singing Butler, raised more than 300,000 at auction. It was one of a trio of pictures that smashed the 200,000 barrier, and which contributed to a total of 2.6 million for his works at the Sotheby’s sale, at Gleneagles.

But there is evidence that the market for Vettriano’s paintings has become more selective, as 12 of his works failed to meet the reserve and were unsold.