‘I was living like like Jack Nicholson in The Shining’: Jack Vettriano, 70, reveals how lockdown depression drove him to cocaine and vodka binges before two Eastern European muses decades younger than him inspired him to start painting again
Jack Vettriano has revealed two new female muses helped inspire him to pick up his brush again and break free from drug and vodka-fuelled binges during lockdown.
The Scottish painter, whose erotic works have long split public opinion, said he owes his creative revival to two Eastern European women he met in Nice and Edinburgh.
The women, who are understood to be decades younger than 70-year-old Vettriano, are credited with inspiring the artist to paint again following his battle with depression, which he compared to Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
‘I was in a very destructive relationship, which ended when Covid began, and shook me both emotionally and financially,’ he told the Telegraph.
‘I just used to go to Sainsbury’s, buy a bottle of vodka, and then get some cocaine. I just spent five months watching TV.’
Although widely panned by critics, Vettriano has sold his paintings for hundreds of thousands of pounds and has an estimated net worth of up to £3.6million
It comes as he prepares to launch his latest exhibition at Kirkcaldy Galleries in Fife will include 12 oil paintings he produced in his early 20s and 30s, signed with his birth name, Jack Hoggan.
The works, painted before he achieved international success in the 1990s, will go on show alongside pieces that have sold for five and six-figure sums.
It will be the 70-year-old artist’s first retrospective since a major show at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow in 2013 and the first to focus on his formative years and early career.
Scottish painter Jack Vettriano has revealed the company of two new female muses helped inspire him to break free from drug and vodka-fuelled binges during lockdown
Although their identities have not been made public, the woman are aged 38 and 42 respectively.
He met the first woman in Nice during the sale of a garage, while the second is a waitress who works in an Edinburgh bistro.
Explaining how overcame the age barrier when he met the pair, Vettriano blasted the fact he can’t meet women using dating sites or nightclubs.
‘I can’t go on dating sites. I can’t go clubbing. I can hardly bloody walk, never mind dance. So the opportunities to meet the opposite sex are really dwindling.
‘But it goes a long way to say “oh, and by the way, look at my website”. They see it’s not just Joe Ordinary, which almost definitely helps.’
Vettriano, from Fife, left school at 15 to become a mining engineer but took up painting after a girlfriend gave him a box of watercolours for his 21st birthday.
The artist learned by copying the Old Masters, Impressionists and Scottish artists and drew inspiration from works he saw in Kirkcaldy Galleries, which is managed by cultural charity OnFife.
Although widely panned by critics, Jack Vettriano has sold his paintings for hundreds of thousands of pounds and has an estimated net worth of up to £3.6million. Pictured: Vettriano’s Sweet Bird of Youth, which has been seen before
Vettriano, left school at 15 to become a mining engineer but took up painting after a girlfriend gave him a box of watercolours for his 21st birthday. Pictured: Vettriano’s The Billy Boys, prints of which sell for hundreds of pounds
The artist later adopted his mother’s maiden name to mark a break with work sold under his family name Hoggan.
His new exhibition opens on Friday, June 17 and will include one of two paintings Vettriano entered for the Royal Scottish Academy’s annual show in 1988.
Both paintings sold on the first day, a turning point that inspired him to become a full-time artist.
Among the 57 private loans will be pieces such as Billy Boys, Valentine Rose and Bluebird at Bonneville, while two works from OnFife’s collection, including a self-portrait, will also feature.
A rejection letter from the Edinburgh College of Art, dated 1989, that told Vettriano his portfolio wasn’t good enough to earn a place at the prestigious institution will also be shown to the world for the first time.
In 1992, Vettriano painted The Singing Butler, which sold for a then-record £744,000.
He described the Edinburgh College snub as ‘the key to my success’, and helped him forge his own controversial style that helped cement his fortune.
Self Portrait, a painting from 2002 by Jack Vettriano that will feature in an exhibition that will include unseen works, unlike this one, at the Kirkcaldy Galleries in Fife, where he sought inspiration as a young artist
OnFife exhibitions curator Alice Pearson said: ‘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.’
Also included will be Long Time Gone, which is set against a backdrop of the now-demolished Methil power station, a once familiar Fife landmark.
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.
Who is Jack Vettriano and why do critics hate his work?
Despite his immense popularity with the public, Jack Vettriano has often been the recipient of more negative comments from art critics, and was once famously described as ‘The Jeffrey Archer of the art world’.
Throughout the years, his work has been described as twee and chauvinistic, with his more erotically-charged material written off as ‘pornography’.
However, his work has sold for thousands, and he is believed to be Britain’s most reproduced artist – making thousands from versions of his paintings. His net worth is estimated to be up to £3.6million.
Scottish art historian Duncan Macmillan once said of Vittriano: ‘He’s welcome to paint so long as nobody takes him seriously.’
Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones said: ‘Jack Vettriano is no 21st-century Van Gogh. he is the Tom Jones of art: big, bold, brassy and devoid of inner truth.’
Jones added: ‘The world of Jack Vettriano is a crass male fantasy that might have come straight out of Money by Martin Amis.’
Sandy Moffat, head of drawing and painting at Glasgow School of Art, said: ‘He can’t paint, he just colours in’, while Richard Calvocoressi, former director of The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, said: ‘I’d be more than happy to say that we think him an indifferent painter and that he is very low down our list of priorities (whether or not we can afford his work, which at the moment we obviously can’t).
‘His ‘popularity’ rests on cheap commercial reproductions of his paintings.’
Vittriano has claimed Van Gogh and Monet would have been in favour of selling reproductions.
Alice Jones wrote in The Independent that in Vettriano’s paintings ‘women are sexual objects, frequently half naked and vulnerable, always in stockings and stilettos.’
Yet sculptor David Mach has spoken out in support of Vettriano saying in The Scotsman: ‘If he was a fashion designer Jack would be right up there.
‘It’s all just art world snobbery. Anyway, who cares, he probably makes more money than Damien Hirst anyway.’