In 1965 Vaughan made his second trip to Greece and, perhaps, something of the solitary, still and compact quality of Classical statuary has filtered through into this painting of an introspective male nude. The enigmatic figure bows his head and gestures in an act of submission and resignation before a dark and forbidding landscape. He is placed to the left and is formally anchored to the bottom of the picture plane. Nevertheless he gently raises his arms towards the sides of the composition as if seeking further permanence and stability. Though it hardly needs to be stated, something of the human condition is communicated by the overwhelming sense of separation and isolation and this, in turn, echoes Vaughan’s own emotional seclusion from the world around him.
1965 was a veritable gouache year for Vaughan and he produced an avalanche of paintings. He referred to these creative outbursts as his ‘gouache marathons’, and recorded his progress in his journal with ever-increasing manic intensity. In mid January he noted: ‘Not much to say. Seven gouaches completed since the beginning of the year.’ By the end of February he had finished around thirty-five, and by the summer the number had grown considerably as he counted ‘61 large gouaches, 15 small, completed since last November.’ Towards the end of July Vaughan confided just how obsessive and time-consuming his gouache process was. He wrote:
The routine continues. I start the day with gouache. I have no particular idea in mind, but there is nothing else to do. After breakfast, I get out the pots and jars and rags and paper. It is quite systematized now. I have been doing it since last November. Like everything else – compulsive. And it adds up to agonized futility. Yet the effect of it is no more futile than other people’s routine. But mine is solitary. It involves no one else. I have done more gouaches that ever can be shown or sold. Yet I continue to do them because there is nothing else I can do. (Keith Vaughan, Journal: July 26, 1965).
Gerard Hastings, 2018.
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