WATER, TREES AND FIGURES II 1948/59
Keith Vaughan (1912 – 1977)
- 63.5 X 83.7 CM
- OIL ON CANVAS
- Accession number
Keith Vaughan achieved something quite rare in British painting but close to the heart of the European tradition: monumental figure images of a generalized kind, often in summary landscape settings and conveying a sense of humanity in harmony with nature. The theme goes back to ancient Greece and it became a conscious concern of modern art with Cézanne’s figure paintings of around 1900. Taking some formal ideas from Cubism, probably via Matisse, Vaughan constructed his figures as hard and soft, geometrical and organic. They are frontal, they are nude, they lack almost any detail and give little insight into individual personality or even sexual life. Their faces especially that on the right, are without character. Their poses are effective as form but have no narrative role. They are not quite idealized presences but give a sense of commonplace man viewing with respect. Vaughan spoke of them as spiritual beings, and said that ‘It is not to find out what makes things differ which interests me, but what unites things’. This is the basic classical impulse, here expressed with rare concision. The forms of the men are also forms of the landscape, and Vaughan’s colour chords reinforce this congruity.