AN EXHIBITION OF FIFTY OILS, GOUACHES & DRAWINGS TO CELEBRATE THE CENTENARY OF THE BIRTH OF THIS IMPORTANT BRITISH FIGURATIVE ARTIST IS BEING MOUNTED AT AGNEW’S IN LONDON.
In this Olympic year of blockbuster exhibitions Agnew’s are delighted to announce a retrospective of the ‘strangely heroic’ Briton, Keith Vaughan. The show will be the first commercial exhibition to celebrate the centenary of the artist’s birth, and coincides with a major show at Pallant House, Chichester. This exhibition of fifty oils, gouaches and drawings will surely cement Vaughan’s place as one of the most significant British artists of the twentieth century.
Charting Vaughan’s career in its entirety, the exhibition comprises some exceptional early works from his time as conscientious objector in the Pioneer Corps, including a wonderfully sensitive and intimate drawing of a young soldier in hard thought. By contrast, his later works are startlingly abstract in style as he pushes the boundaries of figuration in works such as Little Winter Sports (1960) and Winter Landscape (1975), proving the effect Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism had on him.
The core of the exhibition deals with the two great themes that occupied Vaughan throughout his life: firstly, and famously, the male body; and secondly, and oft neglected, landscape. The show includes examples of Vaughan’s celebrated bathers’ scenes: idyllic portrayals of classical masculine beauty against Arcadian backdrops with a Modernist revision, inspired by Cezanne’s Les Grandes Baigneuses. A counterpoint to these utopian visions of the male body in the landscape are provided by his aggressively sexual private sketches after Rimbaud’s poetry, where masses of bodies overlap and interlock.
Vaughan’s lifelong concern – composition and structure – is best demonstrated by the two star pieces of the show. Man Gathering Fruit (1948), with its vibrant colour and highly graphic rendering of figure and space, exemplifies Vaughan’s skill as a draughtsman and signals his leaning toward the European Modernist traditions of Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse. This is further developed in the monumental study for the central mural Theseus, made for the Dome of Discovery at the 1951 Festival of Britain, kindly lent by The Lightbox.
Agnew’s have developed a considerable reputation as one of the leading dealers of Keith Vaughan’s works. Having taken over the artist’s estate from Waddington’s in 1985, in 1990 Agnew’s held the first major exhibition of Vaughan’s work since his retrospective at Whitechapel Gallery in 1962, which coincided with the publication of Malcolm Yorke’s seminal monograph on the artist. 2012, which marks the centenary of the artist’s birth, is also the occasion for the Queen’s Jubilee and the London Olympics – an exciting backdrop for Agnew’s to showcase the work of one of Britain’s leading Modernist painters. Teaming up with Malcolm Yorke once again, the gallery has produced an outstanding catalogue to accompany the show.