Twentieth Century Artists in the Graves Gallery

Keith Vaughan

Keith Vaughan is best known as a figurative painter who combined male nudes with abstract settings. Influenced by contemporaries such as Graham Sutherland and John Minton his early work was decorative in style, and gave prominence to the British landscape.

Vaughan’s unidentifiable, yet unmistakably human subjects inhabited idyllic representations of this landscape and as a result he became recognised as a Neo-Romantic .

He quickly strayed from this style however, striving instead to be a truly classical artist. His work was driven by a progressive understanding of ancient Greek art, adopting its rhythms, forms and invention. As a consequence of this deepening of understanding, his work became grander in conception.

His figurative forms became reminiscent of the Moai figures of Easter Island and the abstract shapes of the Ancient Greek Cycladics. The landscapes that Vaughan’s figures inhabited developed; becoming increasingly more abstract. This was in part due to the influence of Henri Matisse and Nicholas Da Stael who encouraged him to experiment with abstract settings for his figures and in so doing liberated both his use of colour and form.

Despite considerable artistic success Vaughan became increasingly melancholic and reclusive. His journals published during his lifetime and after his death give a graphic insight into his own vulnerable, obsessive and ultimately sad private life. His final entry was made as he took his own life, the words trailing off as he fell into unconsciousness.

Listen to students' responses to Vaughan's paintings - see Audio links below.

Map link: Easter Island, location of ancient stone figures that were a possible source of inspiration for Keith Vaughan's work»

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