Both the woodshed and the landscape mentioned in the title of this work held particular significance for Vaughan. The shed, situated at the centre of the composition, could be seen from his studio window and the landscape in which it is situated is the garden he created during the 1960s and 1970s.
In the late 1950s Vaughan and Bryan Robertson visited Michael and Elizabeth Ayrton at 'Bradfields', their Essex home and he was surprised to discover the unspoiled beauty of the landscape around Toppesfield. The occasion inspired Vaughan to buy Harrow Hill Cottage and this garden shed in 1964. The house, on the opposite side of the lane to the Ayrtons, consisted of a row of three workmen's cottages occupying one third of an acre. It was uninhabitable in its original state so Vaughan set about gutting the structure, making extensive renovations. His partner, Ramsey McLure, lived in this woodshed while overseeing the building work on their new home; the process took a year to complete.
Vaughan built a studio at Harrow Hill where he painted modest-sized paintings of landscape subjects such as this; his larger canvases were worked on at his Belsize Park studio. The Essex cottage was a private place where the artist retreated at weekends, having completed his teaching commitments at the Slade during the week. It was here that he relaxed and could be close to nature; he enjoyed bird watching, gardening, walking and swimming in the pond he created at the end of the garden. Vaughan grew especially fond of the Essex landscape: 'What I like best is a small, compact, unspectacular landscape, combining as much of the three basic elements - air, earth, water - within a space not so large that I couldn't walk around it in half an hour. I do not like views or mountains and I like the sea only when I am looking landward' (Keith Vaughan: Unpublished and undated notes).
The neighbouring countryside supplied inspiration for many of Vaughan's later paintings. The black wood barns of Essex, punctuated with rectangular windows provided pictorial motifs for some of Vaughan's later landscapes, including Troy's Farm (1960-72), High Easter (1967) and Gainsford End Farm (1976).
The lower part of the composition is somewhat formalised, containing as it does, geometric structures such as gable ends, the outline of the shed, the half-open door and the boundaries of the artist's garden. For the most part the paint is applied here in regular, parallel brushstrokes. The upper section of the composition encloses the autumnal foliage of the garden's high thicket hedges and the dark bough of a tree at the right. These organic forms are represented in a much more painterly and animated manner. Distant blue sky can be glimpsed through the shrubbery.
We are very grateful to Gerard Hastings for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry. Gerard Hastings is currently editing Keith Vaughan's later journals for publication in Spring 2012.