Agnew’s are delighted to announce the first exhibition this year in a commercial gallery to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the Modern British painter Keith Vaughan (1912-1977). Having been one of the leading figures of the Neo-Romantic group during his early career, Vaughan went on to enjoy considerable success. His reputation reached its apex in the late 50s and early 60s, culminating in a retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1962, and in 1965 he was awarded a CBE. This exhibition hopes to confirm his place as one of the most significant British artists of the twentieth century.
Charting Vaughan’s career in its entirety, the exhibition opens with the artist’s seminal wartime works, depicting experiences and scenes from his time as conscientious objector in the Pioneer Corps. The first of these is a wonderfully sensitive and intimate drawing of a young soldier in hard thought/reverie a unique example of Vaughan’s earliest works.
As Vaughan is best-known for his depictions of the male body in landscape settings, the show unsurprisingly comprises many fine examples of this theme. The earliest of these, Man Gathering Fruit (1948), is certainly the star of the show. Its vibrant colour and highly graphic rendering of figure and space is exemplary of Vaughan’s skill as a draughtsman and signals his leaning toward the continental European traditions of Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse.
The second, Lagoon with Bathers (1948), is a classic example of Vaughan’s bathers scenes, originally started in the 1930s and famously inspired by his trips to Pagham beach. Finally, the exhibition includes the monumental study for the mural Theseus, made for the Dome of Discovery at the 1951 Dome of Discovery, kindly lent by The Lightbox.
However, the exhibition does not neglect the fact that Vaughan was also an exceptional landscape. As Andrew Lambirth has rightly contested Vaughan painting more than the human figure.
Andrew Lambirth has rightly contested the presumption that Vaughan only painting the human figure and this exhibition supports the claim that he was ‘an immensely effective landscape painter’.