His paintings of lovers embracing in evening wear and couples dancing under the sunset are reviled as trite by the art cognoscenti and Britain's leading galleries have never displayed his work.
But that has not stopped Jack Vettriano from becoming the nation's favourite artist, his prints outselling those of art's masters such as Monet, Dali and Van Gogh.
The Singing Butler, his latest painting to be sold, is expected to fetch a record price today of up to £200,000, a figure the art establishment will find difficult to ignore. One of the most frequently reproduced paintings of its era, The Singing Butler depicts a glamorous couple dancing on a windy beach. More than a million prints and posters of it have been sold since the original was bought for just over £4,500 in 1991. The painting is one of 14 works by Vettriano to be offered in the sale.
The Sotheby's auction, at Hopetoun House, near Edinburgh, will reignite the debate on why the former engineer and self-taught painter has been denied critical recognition.
Vettriano's fans, who include the actor Jack Nicholson, the lyricist Sir Tim Rice and the restaurateur Sir Terence Conran, have railed against the "cultural snobbery and elitism" which they say denies the commercially successful artist the acclaim he deserves.
The Scottish painter said last month: "If [art institutions] were truly buying for the people of Great Britain, then they would buy my work, that is clear as day. But they don't. There's a snob association. When something is regarded as too popular, it's regarded as a bit trashy."
Vettriano, 52, has sold more than three million poster reproductions worldwide and earns an estimated £500,000 a year from royalties. His painting Embrace commanded a record £89,000 when it was auctioned in Edinburgh in December last year.
But Anna Somers Cocks, the editor-in-chief of The Art Newspaper, said: "He is completely outside the contemporary art system. He is good fun to look at but not brain-stretching in any way, which is what contemporary art aims to be about."Reuse content