Jack Vettriano: Master Of The Singing Butler

Early Life:

Jack Vettriano is a self taught painter who became a world renowned artist when his 1992 masterpiece “The Singing Butler” became a global best seller.

He was born in the industrial town of Methil in the city of Fife in Scotland. He was the second of two boys born to his family, and spent a major portion of his early life in poverty. The little family used to live in a small miner’s cottage in Methil, and from an early age Vettriano was taught that the value of seemingly small things in life. He was used to sharing a bedroom with his elder brother and his parents couldn’t afford to buy him new clothes, so he had to make do with hand me down stuff that he got from his brother or the slum markets.


By the time he was 10 years old, little Vettriano was forced to work odd jobs in order to support his family. Jack took on any job that would pay him a decent amount; and he spend his early years as a window cleaner, milk and newspaper delivery man, as well as a potato picker. Half of his earnings were taken by his father. This was a hard time for the Vettrianos and Jack left school when he was 16 years old, opting instead to become an apprentice for a mining engineer.

As a youth, Jack even worked as a bingo caller at a casino in Promenade. But wasn’t until the 1970s, when one of his girlfriends gave him a box of watercolors that Jack started giving painting any serious thoughts. He had been a good painter in his childhood, but the scarcity of resources and tough economic conditions of the family had always kept him from considering art as anything more than a hobby.

Artistic Style, Influences, Major Works:

Much of Jack Vettriano’s early and subsequent works seem to have been inspired by the Impressionists and to a certain extent the Abstractionism movement as well. Vettriano’s paintings often pertain to certain “Heartbreak” (as he puts it). One of his earliest credited works is a copy of Claude Monet’s “Poppy Fields” which he signed with the fictional name “Jack Hoggan”. Vettriano’s primary studies in art were actually self taught; he used to go to the Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery where he would spend his time studying the paintings on display.


Vettriano moved to Edinburgh in 1987, where he initially applied at the University of Edinburgh to study Fine Art, his application was rejected. Vettriano completed two paintings in 1988 which he then submitted to the Royal Scottish Academy, this time he had struck gold. Both of his paintings were sold on the first day and he was eventually hailed as a profitable artist by many galleries across the world.

The two paintings that made Vettriano famous had sold for a collective amount in excess of £230,000. But his most famous painting was the 1992 masterpiece, “The Singing Butler”. Some other notable works that Jack Vettriano has completed in the last two decades include “A Voyage of Discovery”, “The Innocents”, “Bad Boy, Good Girl”, “After the Thrill is Gone”, “And So To Bed”, “Dance Me To The End of Love” and the most recent “Suddenly One Summer”.

The Singing Butler:


The Singing Butler was completed in 1992, but Vettriano was already making quite a living by giving licenses to publishers so they could print his early works. The Singing Butler reaffirmed his stature as being among the most promising new artists of the 1990s and spawned a huge range of merchandise too. The painting has been referred to in many times in the media, as well as print in the form of greetings and post cards. Full size reproductions of The Singing Butler are still popular, and the original canvas painting was sold in 2004 for a whopping £744,500.


Jack Vettriano makes almost half a million pounds every year through the sale and reproduction of his existing paintings. His most recent exhibitions have included “Days of Wine and Roses”, his self portrait titled “The Weight” and “The Ballroom Spy” which he completed in 2011.

About the author

Arlene is a passionate art lover, with interests including researching famous historic painters, oil paintings, wall arts, and doodling around with colors!

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