• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 12304

    Modern British and Irish Art

    14 July 2016, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 134

    Keith Vaughan (1912-1977)

    The Temptation of St Anthony

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Keith Vaughan (1912-1977)
    The Temptation of St Anthony
    signed 'Keith Vaughan' (on the reverse)
    oil on board
    20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm.)


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    The Temptation of St. Anthony is one of Vaughan’s boldest early works. It dates from the mid to late 1930s and already reveals many of the pictorial qualities that he was to explore in his later paintings, namely the male nude, a grouping of figures and their association with a surrounding landscape.

    Vaughan’s narrative conception runs counter to the traditional depiction of the saintly hermit beset by female nudes, demons and exotically deformed animal beings. Unusually he explores the relatively neglected moment of St. Anthony’s desert encounter with a satyr – the mythical beast associated with the pursuit of carnal pleasure. The older, horned seducer confronts the youth who, unable to resist his seduction, seems to collapse with the pressure of the enticement.

    Like many of the artist’s earliest work, such as Antonio and Sebastian, 1938, this painting is concerned with autobiographical qualities. Vaughan grew up as a gay man at a time when homosexuality was not only socially unacceptable, but also a criminal offence. A year or so after he painted The Temptation of Saint Anthony he began his now well-known journal in which he revealed his fears, loneliness and intermittent shame over the nature of his sexuality. Life was a constant moral and psychological struggle for the young Vaughan who was also building up the courage to leave his secure design job at Lintas Advertising Agency to devote his life to painting. On several levels, notions of temptation and enticement beset him. While coming to terms with his transgressive nature, he increasingly recognised that his innate naivety also marginalised him still further. Writing many years later he spoke of his early work:

    'I would offer [these] for admiration to my mother and her lady friends without the least hesitation. Art justified all. And indeed I was perfectly right. Nothing could have been more innocent. It was much later that I came to see the erotic appeal these had' (K. Vaughan, Memoire, Unpublished, February 1965).

    We are very grateful to Gerard Hastings, author of Drawing to a Close: The Final Journals of Keith Vaughan (Pagham Press) and Keith Vaughan: The Photographs (Pagham Press), for preparing this catalogue entry. His latest book, Paradise Found and Lost: Keith Vaughan in Essex, is published by Pagham Press.

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


    Provenance

    Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 11 October 1989, lot 310.
    Brian Collie.
    Purchased from the above by the present owner's partner, 30 August 2002, and by descent.


    Literature

    P. Vann and G. Hastings, Keith Vaughan, Farnham, 2012, p. 97, no. 98, illustrated.