|Jack Vettriano, Self-Portrait (artist's copyright)|
Jack Vettriano is that rare creature, a painter whose activities arouse strong feelings in all kinds of people, from his famous collectors and feisty fans to the critics who are shocked and appalled by his success. His current retrospective in Glasgow has attracted some negative write-ups, while his supporters have used the 21st century soapbox of the on-line comments section to air their views.
|Jack Vettriano, Along Came a Spider (artist's copyright)|
'This is the answer to the question: why don't art critics take Vettriano seriously? Because there is nothing of any interest in the way he paints - Vettriano is to painting what Jeffrey Archer is to prose. Nevertheless, he is very interesting both as a person and as a phenomenon; a self-taught painter who, by depicting his own fantasies, has somehow managed to reach an audience who don't normally take any interest in art. He is also - I was pleased to discover - a very modest, articulate, friendly interviewee.'
|Jack Vettriano, The Singing Butler (artist's copyright)|
I find Vettriano's case intriguing partly because I've just finished writing a book about landscape painter Edward Seago (1910-74), which will be published by Lund Humphries next year. In his lifetime Seago was hugely popular, to the extent that the queues before his exhibitions were reported in the press.
|Edward Seago, The Wild Beast Show, 1932 (artist's estate/Portland Gallery)|
'Having pounced on their prey, the Seago-seekers had to stand at attention for another hour while the embargo printed in red on their invitation cards ran out: "It is regretted that no Drawings can be sold before 10am on the day of the Private View."'
|Edward Seago, Winter Landscape, Norfolk , c1960 (artist's estate/Portland Gallery)|
His paintings, mostly landscapes in oils and watercolour, were immediately recognisable and often delightful. With the art world going crazy for abstraction and dour post-war introspection, art lovers looking for something enjoyable and uplifting found it in Seago, whose self-avowed mission was to record the fleeting beauties of nature. The Queen Mother and the Duke of Edinburgh were fans, even friends; the critics were not. I doubt there was an artist who outsold Seago in his pomp during the 1950s and 1960s. He handled paint with considerable skill and also wrote entertainingly, penning a number of thoughtful autobiographical books. Not all of his paintings are great, but the best of them can make you pause, look again, relax and give in to the pleasure of looking.
'Edward Seago' will be published by Lund Humphries in June 2014. His estate is represented by The Portland Gallery.