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Bluebird at Bonneville

There is a story behind every painting by Jack Vettriano , but the background to the painting of Bluebird at Bonneville is particularly interesting . The original painting was one of seven commissioned by London restaurateur and designer Sir Terence Conran in 1997. A series of seven paintings, featuring the Bluebird and produced for Sir Terence Conran’s Bluebird Club in Chelsea, were among the artist’s first major commissions.

In 2007 a number of paintings by Jack Vettriano were sold for more than £1m. The top sale was Bluebird at Bonneville, bought for £468,000 at a Sotheby’s auction held at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire.

The works were inspired by the Bluebird cars driven by world-renowned racing motorist Sir Malcolm Campbell when he set nine land speed records during the 1920s and 30s.

The works were put up for auction following the refurbishment of the Bluebird Club.

A second of the Bluebird paintings, The British are Coming, fetched £114,000 at the Gleneagles sale.

The sale is the second highest price for a Vettriano after the Singing Butler fetched £744,500 in 2004.

Ballroom dancers

Five in the set went unsold but six other Vettriano paintings were snapped up by bidders.

One of the artist’s best-known images, Dance Me to the End of Love, featuring two ballroom dancers dancing on a beach, sold for £192,000.

‘Major commissions’

Study for Shades of Scarlet went for £102,000.

The eight works were bought for a total of just over £1m.

Vettriano said ahead of the sale: “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.”

The Fife artist received an OBE for services to the visual arts in 2003.