Jack Vettriano: man bag fall almost ended my career

JACK Vettriano has revealed that his painting career was nearly cut short after he tripped over his “man bag” while making a midnight snack.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 1st December 2015, 11:03 am
Jack Vettriano.
Jack Vettriano.

Vettriano suffered a crippling set of injuries in April after falling down the stairs of his Edinburgh home in the middle of the night - landing heavily on a flagstone floor.

The nightmare stumble dislocated his arm and badly injured his right hand - the same he uses to paint - as well as splitting open his head, leaving him needing stitches.

The injuries left the 64-year-old requiring extensive physiotherapy and plunged him into a deep depression - where, he says, he nearly gave up on painting for good.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

But now the Fife-born artist has revealed that the fateful fall occurred after he tripped over his “man bag” on his way to making a midnight snack.

Vettriano - whose work regularly fetches hundreds of thousands at auction - said: “I don’t sleep very well, it was three in the morning and I thought I’d go down to the fridge and get something.

“My foot got trapped in the strap, I was three steps from the bottom and I am glad it was just three steps because I landed on flagstones.”

“I put my hand out to protect my fall and dislocated my shoulder. At first I did not realise, because I have never had an injury in my life.”

But the injuries put Vettriano out of action for eight months - the longest period he has ever gone without painting - during which time he nearly gave up on painting.

He said: “I really started to get very worried, and with the worry came some depression.”

“I went on antidepressants as well. I couldn’t work at all, and it became quite chronic, my depression.

“It’s OK saying, ‘Well, I will have a month off’, but at the end of the month, nothing had changed.

“And then I began to think: ‘Well, you’ve had a good innings. You’ve made an impact, a small impact on the world, on Scotland.’

“It was the way my mind was working: ‘Well if I have to retire now, who cares?’

But now Vettriano is set to return to painting in January - after a new set of physiotherapy has used paintbrushes and an artist’s maulstick as a props to ease him back into the studio.

He added: “I put it down to my own fault for not working on it immediately. And sometimes I have to remind myself of my age. I am not 24 anymore.”

Vettriano - born in Methil, Fife - only began painting as a full-time career at the age of 40.

His most famous work - The Singing Butler - is the most popular art print in the UK, and the original fetched £744,800 when was auctioned in 2004, breaking a Scottish record at the time.

But his work has not always been received kindly by the art world.

In 2002 Sandy Moffat, then-head of drawing and painting at Glasgow School of Art, said: “He can’t paint, he just colours in.”

And 2005 internal emails obtained from the National Galleries of Scotland revealed that then-director Richard Calvocoressi also had a low opinion of the painter.

In an email he wrote: “I’d be more than happy to say that we think him an indifferent painter and that he is very low down our list of priorities (whether or not we can afford his work, which at the moment we obviously can’t).

“His ‘popularity’ rests on cheap commercial reproductions of his paintings.”