One of the central themes of Vaughan’s work is that of male bathers on beaches or by lagoons, rivers and streams. The year before he painted The Lake with Bathers, he painted more than a dozen canvases of figures swimming and sunbathing. Two youths wade ankle deep through a watery inlet while spending a carefree summer day together. One looks towards his companion as he reaches up to pick fruit from an over-hanging branch. Idyllic, untroubled scenes such as this are comparatively rare in Vaughan’s work. Three years earlier he had been impressed by the work of Matisse which he saw in a major exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Having been cut off from European art developments over the course of the war (when his own work had been so affected by the anxieties of the blackout and blitz), he was astonished to discover the colour, elegance and lyricism in the paintings of the French master. The influence on him clearly shows in this painting.
We are very grateful to Gerard Hastings, whose forthcoming book Keith Vaughan: The Graphic Art, is soon to be published by Pagham Press, for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.
Sir Nicholas Goodison commented: ‘The abstracted tree form is an early example of Vaughan's experimentation with abstraction as, in Philip Vann's words, he gradually pared away 'the references to nature and human artefacts that had characterised earlier pictures' (P. Vann and G. Hastings, Keith Vaughan, Farnham, 2012, p. 95). In 1951, in response to a request from Michael Rothenstein, Vaughan wrote a piece on his approach to painting, which was not published until 1990. In this he included comments on his methodology. Perhaps relevant to this picture was his comment that he preferred to work from 'imaginative recollection' rather than from models, citing the difficulty of 'getting several people to stand knee-deep in water beneath trees in some isolated spot of the countryside' (Modern Painters III, no. 2, 1990, p.43).