The present work demonstrates Vaughan's dual embrace of figuration and abstraction. His earlier work had been firmly rooted within the figurative tradition closely allied with the neo-romantic movement echoing the work of Sutherland, Minton and Piper. In 1953, Vaughan saw an exhibition of Nicholas De Stael's work at Matthiesens and was impressed with how De Stael's abstract work could still communicate about reality and his masterful application of paint. Vaughan was, however, still reluctant to fully embrace the movement and wrote on 4 January 1954, 'Abstraction seems the way out for most other painters. But I cannot regard it as a solution. The language of 'pure' form is too subjective. I refuse to embark on anything as soon as the outcome can be foreseen; as soon as I know it lies within my grasp. Yet almost everything I do looks as though it has been done precisely because I know how' (see Journal & Drawings 1939-1965, London, 1966, p. 138).
House by a Lake shows how Vaughan rooted his paintings directly in an observed reality. The house and lake are clearly visible in the present work as are some surrounding trees, at the same time the strength of the composition is confirmed in the planes with which Vaughan has described this landscape. Vaughan never saw himself as a completely abstract painter, commenting, 'for me painting which has not got a representational element in it hardly goes beyond the point of design' (see N. Barber, Conversations with Painters, London, 1954, p. 80).