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Keith Vaughan


Keith Vaughan

Keith Vaughan



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Keith Vaughan

1912 - 1977


signed Keith Vaughan (lower right)

Indian ink, goauche and white wax crayon on paper

sheet: 29 by 20.5cm.; 11½ by 8in.

framed: 50.5 by 41cm.; 20 by 16in.

Executed in 1958.

We are grateful to Gerard Hastings, who is currently working on Keith Vaughan: The Graphic Art to be published by Pagham Press, and Dr Ian Massey, whose latest book is Queer St Ives and Other Stories published by Ridinghouse, for their kind assistance with the cataloguing of the present work.

The sheet is attached to its support with adhesive in the corners. The edges of the sheet are cut. Overall the work appears to be in generally very good condition.

The sheet cockles. There is a tear (approx. 3cm.) to the centre of the upper edge of the sheet. There is possibly a very tiny speck of adhesive residue to the lower right edge of the sheet.

The work is presented in a simple wooden frame held under glass.

Please email if you have any questions regarding the present work.

Please note that Condition 12 of the Conditions of Business for Buyers (Online Only) is not applicable to this lot.

The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.

Matthiesen Gallery Ltd., London

Sale, Sotheby's London, 5 May 1994, lot 480

Sale, Christie's South Kensington, 11 December 1997, lot 23, where acquired by the present owner

London, Matthiesen Gallery Ltd., Keith Vaughan Exhibition, 1962, no. 60

Towards the end of the 1950s Vaughan painted dozens of canvases and gouaches of single, male figures with limbs outstretched (see the two oil paintings Study for Lazarus, 1957 and Bather 1958/9). In the present work, one such figure reaches to the edges of the picture, as though to steady himself in a dark and uncertain environment. On a formal level, the gesture locks the pictorial forms into position with the tautness of guy ropes, creating an effective and stabilizing result within the composition.


The isolated youth (no doubt, a projection of the artist’s own psychological state) is depicted naked and vulnerable, inhabiting a hostile, rocky terrain as if to express something of the human condition. His pale, ghost-like skin contrasts with the inky darkness surrounding him. Uncertainty and doubt dogged Vaughan throughout his career on both a personal and creative level and painting, when it was going well, helped maintain a sense of equilibrium and purpose. The year he executed this small, intense work, he wrote in his journal:


"Agreeable sense of poise, purpose and drive continues…No spectacular results, but a feeling of purpose. What do I mean? I think I mean that some sort of figuration is my way. The mooning about in the abstract is not for me. And yet – and yet – am far from really confident or clear. But if I can maintain this poise…"

(Keith Vaughan, unpublished journal entry, January 7, 1958)


Whenever working with stiffer oil piments on canvas proved problematic, or if he required a freer form of expression, Vaughan turned to painting with a mixture of gouache, Indian ink and wax crayons. These paintings on paper were often rapidly produced in the manner of an improvisation, whereby a sketch-like freshness could be retained. The blank paper surface was often employed to supply highlights, as it does here on the rocky, background forms. 

Gerard Hastings.