Keith Vaughan (1912-1977)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Keith Vaughan (1912-1977)

Figures and Trees

Keith Vaughan (1912-1977)
Figures and Trees
stamped with the studio stamp 'K.V.' (lower right)
ink, watercolour and gouache
20 7/8 x 16 3/8 in. (53 x 41.5 cm.)
Executed circa 1973.
Purchased by the previous owner at the 1989 exhibition.
Their sale; Christie's, London, 5 November 1999, lot 22.
London, Austin Desmond Fine Art, Keith Vaughan 1912-1977 A Selection of Work, November - December 1989, no. 101, pp. 10,32, illustrated.
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.

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Alice Murray
Alice Murray

Lot Essay

‘Vaughan evolved his own procedure while working with gouache that entailed making a series of automatic, random marks on the paper. These unconscious smudges and splashes might be incorporated into the structural design of the composition or become obliterated as the painting evolved; either way they kick-started the painting process for him. It was an intuitive ritual that started ‘as usual, with no more than a process. The making of a series of wet marks across the white board in a sequence of colours (blue black I fancy at the moment) and see where it leads.’ (Keith Vaughan, Journals, 2 July, 1972). No sooner than his routine was played out ‘how simple and clear the way becomes at once’ (Keith Vaughan, Journals, 13 May, 1940).

Vaughan then used black Indian ink to augment the arbitrary arrangement of emerging forms, letting the easy flow of his brush and his instinctive pictorial handwriting guide his gestures until more formal configurations began to emerge. Structuring the composition was vital. In an unpublished studio notebook, dating from 1958, he recorded the progress of his paintings from the initial marks to the final touches. One note reads:

'Necessity for compositional structure to run right through to the edges – disregarding identity of forms … not enough simply to balance shapes within the area. This is a subjectively obvious fact of which I have only just become conscious in words … the continuing lines are never obvious and are constantly interrupted by counter rhythms and thrust back and forth in space.' (Keith Vaughan, Notes on Painting, 16 October, 1958. Unpublished).

Vaughan’s pictorial scaffolding gradually transformed itself into contours of interlocking heads, shoulders and limbs of an assembly of figures or outlines of distant vegetation and tilted horizons. Work would advance mark against mark as fresh applications of gouache were spread over the picture plane in increasingly complex sequences; each chromatic decision, brush track or chance gesture was governed by what had previously been laid down. During the process, frequent adjustments had to be made since additional applications were needed to complement existing textures, tones and hues until eventually the gouache was completed’ (Gerard Hastings, Keith Vaughan, (co-author Philip Vann), London, 2012).

We are grateful to Gerard Hastings, whose new book Awkward Artefacts: The ‘Erotic Fantasies’ of Keith Vaughan is published by Pagham Press in association with the Keith Vaughan Society, for preparing this catalogue entry.

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