Figure and Landscape: Keith Vaughan
3 February to 25 March 2007
Victoria Art Gallery, by Pulteney Bridge, Bath BA2 4AT; 01225 477232
Keith Vaughan (1912-77) was a leading member of the Neo-Romantic movement and one of Britain’s greatest artists of the post-war era. His work expressed his feelings about the male body, seen in relation to the landscape.
This major retrospective of Vaughan’s work features over 60 oil paintings, gouaches, sketchbooks and journals. His first museum exhibition for 26 years, it coincides with the 30th anniversary of his death by suicide.
The exhibits, generously lent by private collectors in Britain and France, include many of his most important figure compositions, including two of his nine Assembly paintings as well as The Return of the Prodigal Son and Reclining Nude 1950.
Vaughan's paintings depicted "Man," often naked and usually too indistinct to be regarded as portraits, in relation to his environment. Implicit in much of his work was a sense of man as a homosexual in opposition to a hostile world.
Like many gay men of his generation and class, Vaughan was troubled by insecurities about his sexuality. Much of what is known about his private life comes from his journals, which he began writing in August 1939 and continued until the morning of his death thirty-eight years later.
Despite writing freely about his sexuality, Vaughan was a product of his age. He had grown up at a time when gay men were driven underground and made to feel guilty about their sexual preferences.
Despite considerable success, Vaughan became increasingly self-critical, melancholic and reclusive. After being diagnosed with bowel cancer in 1975, and also suffering from severe kidney disease and depression, he committed suicide on 4 November 1977 by taking an overdose of drugs.
The show and its accompanying 60-page catalogue have been sponsored by Target Consulting Group and Knight Frank. The Victoria Art Gallery and Target have received an investment from Arts & Business New Partners to develop their creative partnership. Arts & Business New Partners is funded by Arts Council England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Keith Vaughan was born in Sussex on 23 August 1912. Descended from a family of Hackney cabinet-makers, he attended Christ’s Hospital school where an enlightened art master provided the only formal art training that he ever received. He abandoned a career in advertising in 1939 to pursue painting. From 1941 to 1944 he served in the Pioneer Corps. His drawings of army life, however, attracted attention. From 1946 to 1952 he shared a studio with fellow painter, John Minton. As a younger generation Neo-Romantic he was heavily influenced by Graham Sutherland, Henry Moore and William Blake.
During the 1950s Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse were major influences, but most important was that of Nicolas De Stael, who enabled him to reconcile figurative and abstract elements. In 1951 he was commissioned to make the Theseus mural for the dome of discovery at the Festival of Britain.
Vaughan travelled in the Mediterranean, North Africa, Mexico and the USA, where he was resident artist at Iowa State University in 1959. He taught in London at Camberwell School of Art and the Central School of Arts and Crafts and was a visiting teacher at the Slade School of Fine Art. He was awarded a CBE in 1965.
For further information and/or images please contact Jon Benington, Manager of the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath on 01225 477232; firstname.lastname@example.org