Jack Vettriano exhibition opens doors to showcasing Fife’s remarkable art collections

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An eclectic mix of art from one of Scotland’s finest collections is to complement a major exhibition opening in Fife next month.

A dazzling array of paintings managed by cultural charity OnFife will be showcased in tandem with the upcoming Jack Vettriano retrospective at Kirkcaldy Galleries.

Included in Brushstrokes – which runs from June 17 to October 23 – will be several works that inspired the Fife-born artist as he developed a passion for art in his early 20s.

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Vettriano, who grew up in Methil and Leven, borrowed books from Kirkcaldy Library to teach himself the rudiments of painting and was soon copying works in the Galleries.

Palm trees, Antibes, by PeploePalm trees, Antibes, by Peploe
Palm trees, Antibes, by Peploe

Alongside some of his favourite pieces will be less familiar paintings.

One in four of the 53 works in the free exhibition were painted post-1950, and eight are by living artists – some of them Fifers.

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Brushstrokes curator Lesley Lettice says: “With such large crowds passing through the Jack Vettriano show, it’s a great opportunity to introduce people to our amazing permanent collection in the adjacent two galleries.”

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Dolce Aqua by Anne RedpathDolce Aqua by Anne Redpath
Dolce Aqua by Anne Redpath

OnFife’s wealth of paintings is partly thanks to the superb collection of Kirkcaldy linen manufacturer J W Blyth, the maternal grandfather of broadcaster Michael Portillo.

Kirkcaldy Town Council bought 116 works from the Blyth Collection in 1964, placing it in public hands. The art collection has since expanded and now includes around 2000 oils, watercolours, prints and drawings.

Many works bought by Blyth feature in Brushstrokes.

They include a refreshed line-up of 21 paintings by the ever-popular Scottish Colourists – Francis Cadell, J D Fergusson, John Leslie Hunter and Samuel Peploe – and eight by renowned landscape artist William McTaggart.

Included in the blend of traditional and modern works are paintings by acclaimed artists such as Alison Watt, Joan Eardley and Anne Redpath.

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Among the other leading names from 20th century Scottish art are John Bellany, Robin Philipson and Fife’s own John Houston.

Highlights from beyond Scotland include What Shall We Do For the Rent by Walter Sickert of the Camden Town Group and Still Life by French painter and lithographer Henri Fantin-Latour.

Local scenes feature too. St Monans Harbour by Charles Lee, Marian Leven’s Lomond Winter and Kate Downie’s dramatic take on the Forth Bridge, Span, are all part of the mix.

Galleries staff have chosen several of the exhibits and written texts to accompany their selections. QR codes will let audiences learn more about many of the artists and their works.

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Brushstrokes will be family friendly. Visitors are welcome to access an art cart loaded with books, colouring sheets, craft activities, a giant jigsaw and a quiz game.

Visitors will also have a chance to suggest which paintings might feature in future displays at Kirkcaldy. Audiences can tell staff which works appealed to them most, and curators will use gallery-goers’ feedback to inform their choices when the Galleries are rehung in October.

“We want to use Brushstrokes to engage with our audience,” says Lesley Lettice. “There’s something here for everyone to enjoy. I will be spending a lot of time chatting to visitors and making sure we find out more about what they like and what they want to see in future

Photo captions: Palm Treesl Antibes by Samuel Peploe & Dolce Aqua by Anne Redpath

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