By Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter
One is a miner’s son who has become one of Britain’s most successful artists. The other is the former doyen of Formula 1 who won the world championship three times during a glittering career. Now Jack Vettriano and Sir Jackie Stewart, both famous Scots from very different worlds, have collaborated on a triptych of paintings that will be unveiled this week by Prince Albert of Monaco. Called Tension, Timing and Triumph, Monaco 1971, the three paintings tell the story of Sir Jackie’s third victory at Monaco in 1971.
Both Mr Vettriano and Sir Jackie will be in Monaco on Wednesday at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco as Prince Albert and other guests gather for a champagne reception in the run-up to next weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.
The collaboration between the two men took place when Sir Jackie, who is an art collector and a fan of Mr Vettriano’s work, contacted the artist last summer. They met up and eventually Mr Vettriano came up with an idea for three paintings after watching the Roman Polanski film about the 1971 Grand Prix called Weekend of a Champion and studying other photographs of the era. Mr Vettriano, who divides his time between home in Nice, London and Scotland, said: “There’s a sense of romance in risk and danger, which is very compelling, and researching idea for my painting made me realise just how different Formula 1 was in Jackie’s era.
“I was astonished to be reminded that the cars were, as Jackie puts it, ‘petrol tanks on wheels’ and it really touched me to see just how involved the wives and girlfriends were in the whole process of the race. To see footage of Helen [Sir Jackie’s wife] and the other wives recording lap times and keeping charts so that the information could be relayed to the drivers by mechanics on hand-held boards seems incredible now.
“What those courageous drivers risked back then defies belief but as an artist what interested me was the love story that has spanned this astonishing sporting career. It is this, the romance, that I hope I have captured in these three paintings.”
Each painting captures a moment during the race. Tension shows Sir Jackie prior to the race, focusing on the challenge ahead as he walks toward the starting grid, carrying his trademark tartan helmet in his bag. Timing shows Sir Jackie’s wife, Helen, dressed in black and holding a stop-watch as she records his lap times at the side of the circuit. The central painting, Triumph, shows the couple in an emotional embrace after Sir Jackie won the race in his distinctive blue Tyrrell racing car. Waiting at the top of the stairs are Prince Rainier and Princess Grace.
Sir Jackie, who won the Monaco Grand Prix three times, said: “I love the way Jack has captured the romance and uniqueness of Monaco. The paintings are magic.”
Sir Jackie, 68, who has been married for 46 years, did not commission the three paintings so he was under no obligation to buy them. However, after seeing them for the first time in Mr Vettriano’s first-floor Chelsea flat in February, he has now purchased all three paintings for an undisclosed sum to hang in his private collection.
Mr Vettriano, 56, who was born and brought up in the seaside town of Methil, Fife, has had his paintings bought by the likes of Jack Nicholson, Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Tim Rice and Robbie Coltrane. His work treads a thin line between glamour and sleaze. Originally called Jack Hoggan and a self-taught artist, he changed his name – adopting his mother’s maiden name – when he altered the style of his painting in 1988, the year of his great breakthrough when two canvases submitted to the Royal Scottish Academy annual show sold on the first night. Today his paintings sell for up to £130,000 each and he makes more than £500,000 annually in print royalties. His most popular work, The Singing Butler, has sold four million posters and cards – more than any other painting in the UK.
Earlier this year, Mr Vettriano, a divorcee, painted a portrait of Zara Phillips, the Queen’s grand-daughter, which will be auctioned later this year to raise money for Sport Relief.
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