As part of the 1951 Festival of Britain celebrations Vaughan was commissioned to paint Discovery, an enormous mural for the interior of the Dome of Discovery on the South Bank. No photographic record survives of the fifty-foot mural – Vaughan’s largest single painting – and it was destroyed at the end of the festival when the dome was taken down. This oil panel forms part of a series of highly finished pencil studies, detailed gouaches and oil studies he made in preparation for the mural and gives us an insight into what the finished work looked like.
Vaughan’s imagery encapsulates various moment in man’s evolutionary history – emerging from out of the forest, the harnessing of fire and setting off to discover new lands. It is an essentially optimistic view of mankind, filled with a new range of gestures and poses. The subject provided him with the opportunity to not only depict the male nude in a landscape setting but also infuse the composition with drama and theatrical effect.
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