Keith Vaughan was a British painter best known for his muted abstractions of male nudes, landscapes, and architecture.
He meshed the technical practices of Paul Cézanne, Georges Braque, and Nicolas de Staël to create a unique aesthetic expression, as exemplified in Bather (1961). Vaughan was a self-taught painter and, according to the diaries he kept, perhaps used the medium as a means to cope with the frustrations of his unfulfilled homosexual fantasies.
Vaughan worked as an art teacher at the Camberwell College of Arts, the Central School of Art and later at the Slade School.
Vaughan is also known for his journals, selections from which were published in 1966 and more extensively in 1989, after his death. A gay man troubled by his sexuality, he is known largely through those journals. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1975 and died by suicide in 1977 in London, recording his last moments in his diary as the drugs overdose took effect.
Vaughan was a subtle colourist and here manages to weave together a quilted tapestry consisting of colourful blocks and slabs of pigment. These have been incorporated into the figure and in doing so, assist in linking him physically and formally to his surroundings, something Vaughan was always striving for. This pictorial amalgamation of figure and environment was to become one of the central considerations of Vaughan’s work.
The figure stands before a wall of block-like shapes – a formalised representation of a cityscape, representation doorways, windows and walls. It is difficult not to project Vaughan’s own feelings of separation from the world into the figure. His diary informs us that many of his paintings of the male nude are in fact, self-projections of Vaughan himself and explorations of where and how he considered himself in the world. He carried with him constant explorations of anxiety concerning his sense of loneliness and separation from society and even those close to him. In a moving passage from his private journal, he pointed out;
“Loneliness is subtly corroding. I may try to carry its burden but I cannot escape its disfigurement. Shop windows show me a repulsive strangers face, fretted with starvation. Loneliness is the gap, which separates me constantly from every human activity”