Lot 112
  • 112

Keith Vaughan

5,000 - 8,000 GBP
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  • Keith Vaughan
  • Boulders on a Cliff Path
  • signed and dated 1943
  • pencil, pen and ink and gouache
  • 18 by 28cm.; 7 by 11in.


Sale, Christie's London, 17th June 1960, lot 53, where acquired by Eugene and Penelope Rosenberg


The sheet has been fully laid down to a backing card and set within a card mount. There is a tiny loss in the extreme upper right corner, not wholly visible in the present mount. There is a tiny spot of very minor paint loss to the extreme edge of the far left edge, only visible upon very close inspection, with one or two tiny further flecks of loss to the thicker areas of gouache towards the centre of the composition. This excepting the work appears in very good overall condition. Housed behind glass in a thin gilt frame, set with a card and linen-textured mount. Please contact the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

During the war Vaughan served in the Royal Pioneer Corps and was stationed in Wiltshire and at Eden Camp in Yorkshire. He regularly made cycle trips to the nearby coast and spent his spare time drawing the local landscape. On his return to barracks and when army duties permitted, he worked his pencil sketches into more finished gouaches, such as the present example.

Vaughan was obliged to modify his studio practice rather drastically. Art supplies were uncertain, and rationing meant that few materials of quality were available. Living in tents or cramped barrack room quarters meant that slow-drying oil paint and a free-standing easel were simply not practicable. It was at this point that he abandoned painting with oils and his association with gouache began in earnest. On New Year’s Day 1941 he scraped together a makeshift portable studio that could be packed into his regulation knapsack: included a large drawing book, pencils, erasers, brushes, pens and various bottles of black and sepia inks. He proceeded to record every aspect of his army life, the horrors of war and the surrounding landscape in which he found himself. He made numerous pen and sepia ink drawings adding pale gouache washes to create tonal variations. Vaughan not only recorded life around him, but also produced more poetic, expressive works of a more personal nature, as we see here, of an isolated figure ion a landscape. These early gouaches reflect his sense of emotional isolation and loneliness.

“By 1943 Vaughan’s ambitions had grown. He was always on the look out for new materials and added to his knapsack a few pots of designers’ gouache and some yellow and green wax crayons, the only colours he could lay his hands on. With these he attempted to recover some of the firmness and depth of the oil paint he had been using prior to the war. He gave the paintings of this period the generic title of ‘gouache’ even though he confessed,

My early pictures were not, of course, pure gouache. They were mixtures of wax crayon, Indian ink and gouache. And the chemical properties of these different kinds of materials to a large extent determine their own control. They react on each other in certain ways which can be exploited but can not be prevented. You might call it a volatile medium (Keith Vaughan: Notes on Painting, 1963 (unpublished).

His exercising of these materials was influenced, of course, by the work of some of his older contemporaries: “I utilised certain technical processes, he said, which I first saw employed in the work of Sutherland and Moore.” This was a practical decision, “because it showed me a way of obtaining greater variety and richness from the simple materials to whose use army conditions had confined me” (Keith Vaughan: Notes for Introduction to Lefevre Catalogue, May 1944 (unpublished).

Vaughan learnt how to make wax-resists when visiting Sutherland, who demonstrated the technique for him in his studio. The process depends on the principle that wax is water-resistant. When a wash of pigment is brushed lightly over an area previously rubbed over with wax crayon, it is immediately repelled and breaks up into mottled, speckled deposits on the waxy surface. In this way he achieved interesting textural effects with relatively little effort.  Cosmo Rodewald, a comrade in 9th Company at Codford, shared barracks with Vaughan and recalled him painting and drawing in uncomfortable surroundings whenever army duties permitted. “He was always at work in the evenings by candlelight or lamplight, lying on his straw paillasse, his back propped up by a pile of blankets” (Cosmo Rodewald: Letter to the author: May, 1980).  Rodewald also remembered him cadging candle stubs from his barrack room comrades, not so much to provide light by which to work, but to use in his wax-resists.”

(Extracts from Keith Vaughan, Philip Vann and Gerard Hastings, Lund Humphries, 2012.)