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Singing Butler Painting by Jack Vettriano

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Singing Butler Oil Painting
Keywords: Singing Art   Butler Painting  

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Singing Butler - Vettriano Paintings for Sale

The Singing Butler
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Singing Butler is an oil-on-canvas painting made by Scottish artist Jack Vettriano in 1992. It sold at auction in 2004 for £744,800, which was the record at the time for any Scottish painting, and for any painting ever sold in Scotland.[1] Reproductions of The Singing Butler make it the best-selling art print in the UK.[1]

The painting measures 28 inches (710 mm) by 36 inches (910 mm). It depicts a couple dancing on the damp sand of a beach on the coast of Fife, with grey skies above a low horizon. To the left and right, a maid and a man hold up umbrellas against the weather. The dancers wear evening dress: a dinner jacket and a red ball gown; the woman also wears long red gloves but appears to have bare feet. The butler is also formally dressed, while the maid wears a white apron and clutches her hat.

As a contemporary cultural icon, The Singing Butler has been compared to Grant Wood's American Gothic. Vettriano has described the painting as an "uplifting fantasy" and chose the subject after being complimented on his paintings of beaches. He added the servants to balance the composition. His work has been widely criticised by art critics, but is popular with the public. The Singing Butler has been criticised for its uneven finishing, inconsistent lighting and treatment of wind, and for the odd position of the dancers. The dancers' pose is reversed from a normal closed dance hold. Usually, with the man leading, his left hand would hold the woman's right hand, and he would place his right hand on or below the woman's left shoulder blade, while she places her left hand on his right arm, just below the shoulder.

The original painting was sold at auction in August 2003 for £90,000, and then sold to a private collector in April 2004 for £744,800, a Scottish record at that time. After the painting was sold, it was reported that Vettriano had used an artists' reference manual, The Illustrator's Figure Reference Manual, as a basis for the figures (the female figure in the reference work is actress Orla Brady).[2][3] Vettriano retorts that Francis Bacon had the same book in his studio, and that Picasso said that some artists borrowed but he stole.

The Singing Butler had been expected to fetch up to £200,000 at Sotheby's spring sale.

The most popular art print in the UK, the artwork sold for £90,000 when it was last auctioned in August.

It was one of 14 works by the Fife-born artist at the sale at Hopetoun House in West Lothian.

Auctioneers were left stunned when it sold to a mystery phone bidder.

"It was very exciting, it fetched massively over what was expected, we're thrilled," said a Sotheby's spokeswoman.

"It came down to two telephone bidders in the end, both were very determined.

"It is the record for any Scottish painting and for any painting ever sold in Scotland."

The sale has more than smashed the previous record for a Vettriano - an oil painting called Embracing sold for £98,000 last December.

Vettriano is acknowledged to be the UK's most popular artist.

His prints sell more than those by old masters such as Monet and Van Gogh, and his distinctive paintings are often reproduced on posters and postcards.

However, he has long felt snubbed by the arts establishment and Britain's leading art galleries have never displayed his work.

Jack Vettriano received an OBE last November
Vettriano's agent, Tom Hewlett, said his client felt vindicated by the auction, in which another 13 of his paintings sold for between £30,000 and £175,000.

He added that Vettriano's reaction to the sale was "a combination of embarrassment and delight".

"He's a modest, rather humble bloke who 15 years ago was completely and utterly unheard of."

Hewlett, who runs the Portland Gallery in London, said Vettriano's paintings had been offered to British national art collections but had been rejected.

"We have offered them to the museums and all have been dismissed," he said.

"I don't think the establishment can now ignore what has been thrust upon them.

"The critics have started to realise that the more they voice off in a rather elitist way, the bigger repercussion from the public [will be].

"There is a huge public out there that like looking at an image and like relating to it.

"There's nothing for the critic to explain, so they're out of a job."

Art critic, David Lee, editor of The Jackdaw magazine, said although he did not admire Vettriano, national collections should recognise excellence "wherever it alights on the artistic spectrum".

If we ran our public libraries like we run our public galleries, everybody would complain
David Lee
Art critic
"Here we have a very famous artist, none of whose works is in a national, regional or municipal collection, because he's popular and therefore the toffs and elitists don't buy him for our public collections," he said.

"If you have got a very popular painter like Vettriano, we ought to have an example of him, just as we ought to have an example of Gilbert and George."

He said there was a conspiracy between curators and museum directors not to buy popular artists like Vettriano.

"If we ran our public libraries like we run our public galleries, only buying Ulysses, instead of buying Jilly Cooper as well, everybody would complain," he said.

Kirkcaldy-born Vettriano, 52, left school at 16 to become a mining engineer in the local coalfields.

He taught himself to paint in a Fife bed-sit after his girlfriend bought him a set of watercolour paints for his 21st birthday.

His work came to prominence in an exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy.

But his work has divided the critics and he does not currently feature in any of Scotland's national galleries.

Another version of the painting, Dancer in Emerald, omits the maid, while the female dancer wears a green dress. Both were included in Vettriano's first London exhibition, God's Children, at the Mall Galleries in October 1992. The original painting of The Singing Butler was displayed at Aberdeen Art Gallery in February 2012, the first public exhibition for 20 years.

The Singing Butler can be viewed at Aberdeen Art Gallery.

It is part of an exhibition entitled "From Van Gogh to Vettriano - Hidden Gems from Private Collections".

Vettriano's artwork became the most expensive painting by a Scottish artist when it sold for £750,000 eight years ago. The exhibition ends in April.

Other artists featured in the exhibition include Monet, Matisse and Lucian Freud and Scottish colourists Peploe and Fergusson.

The Singing Butler, which shows a couple dancing on a beach while a butler holds an umbrella over them, has been loaned to the gallery for the exhibition by a private collector in Scotland.

Sixty-year-old Vettriano grew up in Methil in Fife.

He is reported to sell more posters and postcards than any other artist in the UK.

The original canvas of The Singing Butler sold at auction in 2004 for £744,500.

In 1992 when Vettriano painted the picture and submitted it for inclusion in the Royal Academy summer show, it was rejected.


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