Jerwood Foundation

Keith Vaughan (1912-1977)

Walking Figure, 1958

  • Details

    © the estate of Keith Vaughan. All rights reserved, DACS
    signed ‘Vaughan’ (lower right)

  • Medium

    oil on panel

  • Dimensions

    201316 x 12 ½ in. (40.5 x 32 cm.)

  • Provenance

    Dr Patrick Woodcock.
    with Anthony Hepworth, Bath.
    with Paul Liss, London, where purchased in September 1993.

  • Exhibited

    New York, Durlacher Gallery.

  • Literature

    Collection Catalogue, Jerwood Collection, London 2012 p.35.

  • On Display

    Room 3, Jerwood Gallery, Hastings

Vaughan painted landscapes and male nudes in a signature palette of olives and blues. Along with the Neo-Romantic group of artists close to him in the period following WWII, notably John Minton, Robert Colquhoun and John Craxton, he explored different ways of painting people. Over time Vaughan’s figures became less literal although he never embraced abstraction completely as some of his peers did. When the desexualised nature of his nudes of this period was questioned he said ‘the erotic image soon ceases to be human and you paint the eroticism out’.

He executed this painting shortly before taking up the position as artist in residence at Iowa State University, USA, where he rejected Abstract Expressionism as emotionally shallow. He found instead great satisfaction in the flatness and colours of the local landscape. Others in the neo-romantic group had abandoned landscapes as the influence of Graham Sutherland over them waned, but to Vaughan they remained a cornerstone of his work, merging with nude forms in works of the late 1960s and early 1970s.


Born in Selsey Bill, Sussex, Vaughan was a boarder at Christ's Hospital, where an enlightened art master (HA Rigby) provided the only formal art training he received and encouraged his interest in Frank Brangwyn whose murals adorn the school chapel. After leaving school he moved to London and from 1931 to 1938 worked for Lintas, an advertising agency. Although Vaughan listed as a conscientious objector he later served in the Pioneer Corps (1941-46) and during this time he met and was influenced by Graham Sutherland, John Minton, John Craxton and Robert Colquhoun. After the war he shared a studio with Minton who introduced him to Duncan Macdonald at the Reid Lefevre Gallery, where his first one-man show was held (1946). Vaughan is associated with the Neo-Romantic movement, however, during the 1950s, European influences fed into his work and he also looked to Nicolas De Staël’s blend of figuration and abstraction.

His work continued to be exhibited in London, and also, through the Arts Council, in New York, Buenos Aires and Europe. He travelled widely and in 1959 was resident artist at Iowa State University. He held a number of teaching posts, including Camberwell College of Arts, London (1946-48); Central School of Arts and Crafts, London (1948-57); and the Slade School of Fine Art (1954-77). Major retrospective exhibitions include Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1962) and University of New York (1970). Although Vaughan enjoyed success and recognition and was awarded a CBE in 1965, he became increasingly depressed, partly because of his ill health and, at the age of sixty-five, committed suicide.