The Singing Butler

32 – The Singing Butler goes on show

October 2, 1992

JACK VETTRIANO remembers an art teacher at school saying to him: “That’s a good drawing”.

For a moment, Jack wondered if he could go to art college, but he knew he’d need three O levels and had no chance of getting the other two.

Brought up in a working-class home in Methil, Fife, further education was unheard of in his family. His mum was a field worker until she married and his dad worked down the pits.
Jack was 22 when a girlfriend gave him a set of oil paints and he did 20 paintings of common British birds from a book he’d stolen from the library.

He realised he had a talent and began painting prolifically, especially when he found his
muse – women.

Jack painted The Singing Butler in 1992 and it was first exhibited at the Mall Galleries in London. It depicts a couple dancing on a beach in Fife, with grey skies overhead, while two servants hold up umbrellas.

Jack Vettriano (Andrew Milligan / PA)
Jack Vettriano (Andrew Milligan / PA)

It was sold for £90,000 at auction in 2003 and then sold to a private collector the following year for £744,800.

Afterwards it was revealed that Vettriano used an artists’ reference manual as the basis for the figures in the painting, but he dismissed the criticism.

Art critics tend to hate his work, but the public love it and The Singing Butler is the best-selling art print in the UK.

“Why should The Singing Butler just be in the home of one person when it could be in 10 million homes,” Jack said.

“That’s the way art should be.”

Well said, Jack.