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  • Lesley Lettice

Art for All at Kirkcaldy Galleries

Valentine Rose - Vettriano Flowers and Fruit with a Japanese

Background - Peploe

Kirkcaldy Galleries has just opened its doors to two colourful and exciting new exhibitions – ‘Jack Vettriano, the Early Years’ and ‘Brushstrokes’, featuring specially selected gems and highlights from our own fine art collection.

‘The Early Years’ bring Jack Vettriano full circle – back to the gallery that first inspired him to become an artist. His interest in art was sparked by our very own fantastic collection, particularly our works by the Scottish Colourists, Glasgow Boys and noted landscape painter, William McTaggart. Jack speaks fondly of the many times he sat in the galleries and studied the technique of these renowned artists.

A 21st birthday present of a set of watercolour paints was the catalyst for his journey from mining engineer to aspiring artist to celebrated painter. He learned his craft by copying the work of the artists he so admired, going on to discover and perfect his own distinctive style.

‘The Early Years’ returns to the beginning, with works painted under his birth name, Jack Hoggan. It then goes on to illustrate the development of his career, with well-known titles, such as ‘The Billy Boys’ (left), ‘Mad Dogs’ and a study for ‘The Singing Butler.’There are 56 paintings in total, making the exhibition well-worth a visit if you are a Vettriano fan.

‘Brushstrokes’ is designed to both complement the Vettriano exhibition and show off our fantastic collection of 19th and 20th century Scottish art, as well as works by some well-known English and European artists. Right here on your doorstep in Fife we have around 2000 oil paintings, watercolours, prints and drawings, including 47 works by the celebrated Glasgow Boys and the largest collection of works by Scottish Colourist S J Peploe outwith National Galleries Scotland. The backbone of the collection is a group of 116 paintings purchased by Kirkcaldy Town Council from the estate of wealthy Kirkcaldy linen manufacturer, John Blyth, in 1964.

There are 53 works on display, all specially selected to illustrate the breadth and calibre of our collection. Gallery Two of ‘Brushstrokes’ is largely a homage to Blyth’s passion for Scottish art.Here, you can see many of the paintings that inspired the young Jack Hoggan, with a selection of beautiful still lifes, elegant portraits and inspiring landscapes produced by Scottish

Colourists, Samuel Peploe, Francis Cadell, Away O'er the Sea, Hope's Whisper - Mctaggart

George Leslie Hunter and John Duncan

Fergusson. There are also eight large landscapes and seascapes by William McTaggart.

Gallery One is a fantastically eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary art. All of the works tell a story and the accompanying labels focus on that narrative element, drawing attention to little details and hidden elements within the paintings or interesting anecdotes about the artist. Many of the works on display have been chosen by members of staff and each of these comes with an extra layer of interpretation – a ‘staff picks’ label, explaining why they’ve selected that particular painting and what it means to them.

There are works by Elizabeth Blackadder, Anne Redpath, John Bell any, Henri Fantin-Latour, Alison Watt, Walter Sickert, Frances Walker, Joan Eardley and John William Waterhouse, to name but a few. Between the two galleries, we guarantee that there will be something to surprise, delight and inspire every visitor, whatever their tastes.

At the Berries – John Johnstone

Looking to the future, after the Vitrina exhibition has finished, we are putting serious thought into what we do with our art galleries. We think that the vitrain exhibition will bring in lots of people who may be making their first visit to Kirkcaldy Galleries or may not be regular gallery-goers. It seemed like a great opportunity to show our collection to a new audience and to get some valuable feedback about what we have on offer.

As well as being a showcase for our collection, ‘Brushstrokes’ is also designed to be an exercise in customer engagement, one that will help us make some decisions about what we put in our galleries from 2023 onwards and how we interpret it for our visitors.

We’ve built into ‘Brushstrokes’ lots of ways to gather visitor feedback, from postcards you can fill in and leave in the gallery, to curators being around on selected dates just to chat with visitors and find out what they think about the exhibitions and what they’d like to see in future.

We’re trying out some new ways for our visitors to interact with the artworks – QR codes that link to audio recordings with some of the local artists talking about their painting, or codes that link to more information about some of the details within the painting. There is a ‘Brushstrokes’ website, with links to films about some of the artists, the audio recordings and kids’ craft videos based on some of the paintings in ‘Brushstrokes’.

We also have lots of children’s activities on offer in the galleries – a giant jigsaw of one of the Peploe’s and a free activity pack with a gallery quiz sheet and origami craft, as well as our Art Cart, loaded with arty storybooks and colouring sheets.

‘Brushstrokes’ is free so why not come along and enjoy some amazing art and help us make some informed decisions about the re-hang of the art galleries from 2023. We would love to see you and it would be enormously helpful to hear your thoughts. If you are coming to see the Jack Vettriano exhibition please pop into ‘Brushstrokes’, enjoy some wonderful paintings and, if you have two minutes to spare, please do fill in our little feedback postcard. It would be very much appreciated.

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