Vaughan, Keith (1912 - 1977)
Sheltering Figure. Oil on paper. c.1939/40. Provenance: Sebastian Walker; his Sale, Sotheby's 10/11/91, lot 27. Special thanks to Gerard Hastings for confirming this attribution and providing an extended catalogue entry. 6x7.5 inches. Framed: 11x12.5 inches.

Vaughan had been very influenced by Cezanne in his final days at Lintas Advertising Agency and this shows clearly here. A work such as this marks the very start of Neo-Romanticism. The sheltering figure motif was used simultaneously by Craxton (Dreamer in a Landscape, 1941 and Poet in a Landscape 1942 and numerous other works) and Minton (harvesters, orchard figures and reclining boys in undergrowth). Vaughan also used similar figures in a number of places around this time (Seligheit, 1944, and on the cover of Penguin New Writing & Daylight, 1943). Sheltering in undergrowth became a staple motif in Neo-Romantic art but it came out of a tradition going as far back as Joseph Wright of Derby’s portrait of Sir Brooke Boothby, 1791. Being cut off from European developments in painting, Vaughan fell back on our native painting to locate pictorial  motifs and themes for his own painting. Most commonly, of course, he and his contemporaries looked to Samuel Palmer and we see comparable figures sleeping in undergrowth and woodland, as though nature had become a source of security and seclusion, away from the ravages of war. It was a time of blackout, insecurity, threat and  upheaval and there can be little doubt that the figure embodies Vaughan’s insecurity at that time. John Craxton explained that his images of sheltering figures were certainly autobiographical and exercises in self-preservation. No doubt Vaughan’s little figure had a similar function when he painted it.

(Gerard Hastings, January 2022)

See 3 available works by this artist.

Description

Vaughan had been very influenced by Cezanne in his final days at Lintas Advertising Agency and this shows clearly here. A work such as this marks the very start of Neo-Romanticism. The sheltering figure motif was used simultaneously by Craxton (Dreamer in a Landscape, 1941 and Poet in a Landscape 1942 and numerous other works) and Minton (harvesters, orchard figures and reclining boys in undergrowth). Vaughan also used similar figures in a number of places around this time (Seligheit, 1944, and on the cover of Penguin New Writing & Daylight, 1943). Sheltering in undergrowth became a staple motif in Neo-Romantic art but it came out of a tradition going as far back as Joseph Wright of Derby’s portrait of Sir Brooke Boothby, 1791. Being cut off from European developments in painting, Vaughan fell back on our native painting to locate pictorial  motifs and themes for his own painting. Most commonly, of course, he and his contemporaries looked to Samuel Palmer and we see comparable figures sleeping in undergrowth and woodland, as though nature had become a source of security and seclusion, away from the ravages of war. It was a time of blackout, insecurity, threat and  upheaval and there can be little doubt that the figure embodies Vaughan’s insecurity at that time. John Craxton explained that his images of sheltering figures were certainly autobiographical and exercises in self-preservation. No doubt Vaughan’s little figure had a similar function when he painted it.

(Gerard Hastings, January 2022)