Sexual Tension and Edgy Romance In Jack Vettriano’s Art
Jack Vettriano is a Scottish painter known for his nostalgic paintings that carry the viewer away and make you wonder what will happen next. Vettriano left school to become a mining engineer, but also was interested in art and started to teach himself to paint. Maybe we have to thank one of his former girlfriends that she gave him watercolors for his 21st birthday which obviously contributed to his interest in artistic expression. The artist, trying to pursue this path further, got rejected by the Edinburgh College of Art in 1989. However, this would not stop him and later he sold his paintings for hundreds of thousands of pounds, moving into the front rank of contemporary art and becoming Scotland’s most successful and controversial artist.
Fig. 1: The Sparrow and the Hawk
Alluring and Sinister
The world in Vettriano’s artworks consists of the drama and tension between men and women who come together in bars, clubs, bedrooms, or backrooms. Men are portrayed classical, even stereotypical in a modern sense. They wear dark suits, snap-brimmed hats and seem to be the businessmen of another time. Women wear red lipstick, silk stockings and dresses and everybody smokes stylishly. The viewer spies on these people, watches what they are doing away from their families, away from their usual business. Are we witnessing a seduction that is about to happen? Is it betrayal at the same time? What are those people doing just to escape their loneliness? This darkness of human longing, desires and affairs is depicted with glamour and style, alluring, but sinister at the same time.
Fig. 2: Beautiful Losers II
Fig. 3: The Master of Ceremonies
Fig. 4: Fetish
Fig. 5: Queen of The Fan-Dan
Fig. 6: The Same Old Game
Voyeuristic and Discrete
As a spectator, we are provided with scenarios of small dramas and romantic intrigue. We see snapshots of intimate scenes, putting the gaze in the room, but at the same time not revealing what the people are thinking and what their constellation is, or if there is some menace we should look out for. There is no real closure for the viewer, but what lasts are the torments of romance. Vettriano himself said that nothing is eternal except for the suffering of love and human relationships. His paintings do not show happiness or hope, they are rather a contradiction to socially imposed idylls and a picture-perfect family life. They disclose a reality that happens parallel, but in the shadow and with discretion and secrecy. This aspect is underlined by the shades and often covered faces and the keynote of his art, namely to paint in noir.
Fig. 7: Strangers in the Night
Fig. 8: Soho Nights
Fig. 9: A Very Married Woman
Fig. 10: Wicked Games
In the exclusive Premium edition, you can find, among other things, Vettriano's pessimistic view on relationships, fascination for glamorous-looking women and in particular the model Genevieve Solecki, his depression during Covid, and 45 additional pics of his most enticing work.
More info about the artist can be found on the artist's site
Source: Jack Vettriano, Lovers & Other Strangers, Pavilion publishing, 2000;