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Vettriano show reveals how Jack made a name for himself

22 December 2021

Previously unseen paintings by one of Britain’s most popular artists will feature in a major retrospective at the gallery that first inspired him.

An array of early works by Fife-born Jack Vettriano – completed before he achieved international success in the 1990s – will be included in the exhibition, which opens at Kirkcaldy Galleries in June.

Alongside pieces that have commanded five and six figure sums will be a dozen oil paintings, produced by the artist in his 20s and early 30s. All are signed with his birth name, Jack Hoggan.

It will be the artist’s first retrospective since a major show at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery in 2013 – and the first to focus on his formative years and early career.

For Vettriano, who grew up in Methil and Leven, the exhibition is a welcome return to the gallery where he developed his passion for art, having been gifted a set of paints for his 21st birthday.

The budding artist, formerly an apprentice mining engineer, borrowed books from the adjacent Kirkcaldy Library to teach himself the rudiments of painting and then started copying other artists.

Among them were old masters, French impressionists and a host of Scottish artists whose work forms part of Kirkcaldy Galleries’ extensive collection, which is managed by cultural charity OnFife.

“I grew up admiring the work of so many great Scottish painters in what was then my local gallery,” recalls the artist, who adopted his mother’s maiden name on becoming a full-time painter.

“Kirkcaldy has a great permanent collection and a free admission policy, so I have the Galleries to thank for the start of my art education.”

The show will include one of two paintings he entered for the Royal Scottish Academy’s annual show in 1988. Both paintings sold on the first day – a turning point that inspired the artist to go full-time.

Other highlights include The Critical Hour of 3am. Vettriano has said the painting captures the moment he wrestled with the decision to give up his day job and devote himself fully to painting.

Among the 57 private loans will be hugely popular pieces such as Billy Boys, Valentine Rose and Bluebird at Bonneville. Two works from OnFife’s collection, including a self-portrait, will feature.

Also included will be Long Time Gone, which is set against the backdrop of a once familiar Fife landmark – the now demolished Methil power station.

The exhibition, which covers the artist’s career up to 2000, was originally planned for 2019 but has twice been postponed because of Covid-19 restrictions.

OnFife exhibitions curator Alice Pearson says: “This is the first time Jack has agreed to exhibit work painted simply as a hobby beside later pieces that wowed sell-out shows in London and New York.”

“The exhibition will highlight the diversity of subject matter and styles Jack tackled while learning his craft, giving him the confidence and technical ability to develop his own identifiable style.”

Jack Vettriano: The Early Years is at Kirkcaldy Galleries from 17 June to 23 October 2022.