Fans of the self-taught artist have long believed his work should be acknowledged by the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) and yesterday it was announced that a brooding self-portrait will go on display at the new Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh when it reopens in the autumn.
Although prints and posters of the Fife artist’s work have long been best- sellers and his originals collected by celebrities such as Sir Terence Conran, Jack Nicholson and Robbie Coltrane, his work has been largely ignored by the artistic establishment.
Until yesterday’s announcement, the only public gallery to show his work was in his home town, the Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery.
The Weight, the title of the self-portrait, has been offered on long-term loan to the national collection from a private collector and will be hung in the portrait gallery when it reopens in November following its £17.6m renovation. The oil on canvas portrait was painted last year.
James Holloway, director of the gallery, said: “Jack Vettriano is one of the best-known Scottish artists. I am delighted that his self-portrait will hang in the new Portrait Gallery alongside the faces of the many other famous Scots in our collection.”
Vettriano said: “This is a great honour and another benchmark in my career, and for it to happen in my father’s lifetime makes it all the more special.”
Vettriano’s painting, Let’s Twist Again, chosen by First Minister Alex Salmond to be his official Christmas card in 2010, is now on display at The Old Course Hotel in St Andrews, ahead of being auctioned at a special fund-raising dinner tonight.
All proceeds from the sale will be split between four Scottish charities: Bethany Christian Trust; Quarriers; Teenage Cancer Trust; and Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres, which were selected by Vettriano himself.
Yesterday, Mr Salmond said: “I warmly welcome the announcement that The Weight by Jack Vettriano will go on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
“Jack truly deserves this honour. He is a wonderful artist of considerable talent and achievement and this is a magnificent tribute to the special place he holds in the hearts of people in Scotland.”
Ben Thomson, chairman of the NGS board of Trustees, met with Vettriano last March and conveyed a desire to include his work in some form at the galleries.
Nicola Kalinsky, deputy director of the portrait gallery, said: “We are very pleased to have him. We are here to represent great Scots, and he is a great Scot.
“At the portrait gallery we have known for some years that he was a missing figure from our walls.”
Mr Holloway had been keen to accept a self-portrait of the artist before. In 2005, a request under the Freedom of Information Act to the NGS from The Herald unveiled critical internal views of the artist’s work as well as Mr Holloway’s openness towards having a self-portrait on loan.
Last year, Vettriano told The Herald: “It would be a nice gesture by the National Galleries to say, ‘Let’s forget what has gone on in the past.’ I have always said it’s not my decision to say whether I am good enough, but I do think the people of Scotland are worthy of seeing the work.”