PERTHSHIRE, SCOTLAND.- Over the past decade Jack Vettrianos paintings have caught the imagination of the public like those of no other Scottish contemporary artist and this summer with the sale of his first major commission a commission that marked a huge leap forward in the evolution of his career - he is set to be the talk, once again, of the season. Seven paintings by the legendary - and often hotly debated - artist will headline Sothebys sale of Scottish Pictures at the prestigious Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland on Wednesday, August 29, 2007. Among the most important works by Vettriano ever to have come to auction, the seven paintings have adorned the walls of Sir Terence Conrans Bluebird Club on the Kings Road in Chelsea, London since 1997, when Conran an early admirer of Vettrianos work - commissioned the then aspiring artist to undertake the paintings to hang on the walls of his newly acquired restaurant. Each of the works took their inspiration from the celebrated Bluebird cars that Sir Malcolm Campbell (1885-1948), the world renowned racing motorist, drove when he set his nine land speed records during the 1920s and 1930s.
Together the seven paintings (which are to be offered individually) are expected to fetch in excess of £1.2million. The Bluebird restaurant on the Kings Road was originally built as a motor-garage in the 1920s but subsequently served as an ambulance station and indoor market while steadily falling into disrepair. In 1996 it was purchased by Sir Terence Conran and extensively refurbished before reopening as the second of Conrans Gastrodromes, accommodating two restaurants, a dining club, foodstore and flower/homeware shop, the design of which evoked the spirit and glamour of the 1920s and 1930s. It has always been believed that one of Sir Malcolm Campbells early bluebird cars was stored in the motor-garage in the 1920s a connection that informed Conrans choice of the Bluebird name for the restaurant. The well-known Chelsea eating spot leant itself well to an association with Sir Malcolm, the Englishman who captured the imagination of the whole world by breaking the land speed record on nine separate occasions between 1924 and 1935 in the exotic and streamlined cars he called Bluebirds, a name he took from a play that he admired called the Bluebird of Happiness by Maurice Maeterlink. A timber-clad display wall of books and memorabilia in the Club was dedicated to Sir Malcolm and this featured models of his famous Bluebird racing cars and boats, illustrations by Paul Slater, motor racing art and photography and an assortment of other items of Campbell Family memorabilia. The Campbell family have always had close links with the Club and Conran and Sir Malcolms grandson, Donald Wales, is still a member of the Club today. Conran also sponsored Donalds attempts to break the electric car world land speed record in the Bluebird Electric in the late 1990s.
The paintings that Conran commissioned Vettriano to paint were for exhibition in the Bluebird Clubs dining room. The works are iconic pieces which embody a film-noir style of nostalgia and a glamorous elegance tinged with undertones of danger and intrigue; of men and fast cars and women in silk gowns and sunshades. Each painting took its inspiration from a moment in the history of the much celebrated Bluebird cars and illustrated left is one of the photographs that Vettriano worked from when undertaking the commission.
Following ten successful years of business, the Bluebird Club has decided to celebrate its tenth anniversary with an extensive refurbishment and it has therefore been decided that the time has come to sell the popular Vettriano works that have adorned the walls for so long.
Born in 1951, Vettriano was the son of a Scottish father and an Italian mother. Completely self-taught (he began doodling as a child on the back of his grandfathers betting slips, and later taught himself to paint by copying Old Masters using a watercolour kit bought for his 21st birthday by his then girlfriend), he has described his style as a cross between 1930s railway posters and the covers of pulp fiction. Whatever the reservations of his critics, Vettrianos work combines nostalgia and modernity in a way that speaks to a very broad public and he has had huge international success. Art lover Conran has been a well known collector and follower of Vettrianos work for many years and he even endorsed Vettrianos book Lovers and Other Strangers: The Limited Edition with: Jack Vettriano seems to understand perfectly the stylish sexiness and intrigue that you get when high life and low life collide.
Jack Vettriano remembers: The Bluebird series was one of my first major commissions, and I was thrilled when Sir Terence Conran approached me with the project. The brief was pretty clear: 'I know you have to paint cars, but try and make them sexy'. I have always had an interest in classic cars and so the commission really appealed. I did a lot of research on the subject, and spent six weeks in my studio producing the works thats slow for me! I then waited for the dreaded call
. He loved them!'
Vettriano s works have a history of success at Sothebys and indeed in April 2004 Sothebys sold his most iconic image, The Singing Butler, for £744,500 - a new world auction record for a work by him and also the highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction in Scotland. Sothebys also offered Vettrianos Mad Dogs at Gleneagles in September 2004, where it fetched £330,400. Vettrianos The Singing Butler and Mad Dogs are the two best-selling posters in Britain. Andre Zlattinger, Director and Head of Scottish Pictures at Sothebys, comments: Vettrianos works have huge public appeal and he is one of the most commercially successful living artists today. His images are some of the most frequently reproduced of our time - he is a fascinating cultural phenomenon.
Sir Malcolm was a racing motorist and motoring journalist. He gained the world speed record on land and on water at various times during the 1920s and 1930s using vehicles called Bluebird. Sir Malcolm broke nine land speed records between 1924 and 1935, with three achieved at Pendine Sands in South Wales and five at Daytona Beach in Florida. He set his final land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on September 3, 1935 and it was on this occasion that he was the first person to travel at a speed in excess of 300 mph. Further to this, he also set the water speed record four times and his versatile racing in different vehicles made him internationally renowned.
Bluebird at Bonneville, estimated at £400,000-600,000, is perhaps the best-known of Vettrianos Bluebird group and it is also the most valuable of the seven works. It sets the scene of dazzling sunlight refracted from the white sands of the Utah salt flats in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Sir Malcolm achieved his ninth and last - land speed record in a Bluebird CN7 powered by both Napier and Rolls Royce engines on September 3, 1935. The speed broken was 301.12mph. The second most valuable work in the group, Pendine Beach, portrays the preparations for Sir Malcolms challenge to break the world speed record on September 25, 1924 on Pendine Sands in South Wales in his first car called the Bluebird, the V12 Sunbeam Bluebird. The canvas, which is expected to fetch £300,000-500,000, captures the tense anticipation as the spectators gather to admire the car packed on the wet beach beneath a sky laden with morning rain. It was on this attempt that Sir Malcolm achieved his first land speed record, reaching a speed of 146.16mph.