Keith Vaughan (1912-1977)

Born in Selsey, Vaughan attended Christ’s Hospital school. He was employed in an advertising agency until the war when, as an intending conscientious objector, he joined the St John’s Ambulance; in 1941 he was conscripted into the Non-Combatant Corps. Vaughan was self-taught as an artist. His first exhibitions took place during the war. In 1942 he was stationed at Ashton Gifford, near Codford in Wiltshire.

Also during the war Vaughan formed friendships with the painters Graham Sutherland and John Minton, with whom he shared a studio after demobilisation in 1946. Through these contacts he formed part of the neo-romantic circle of the immediate post-war period. However, Vaughan rapidly developed an idiosyncratic style which moved him away from the neo-romantics. Focusing on male figures, his work became increasingly abstract.

Vaughan taught at the Camberwell College of Art, the Central School of Art and latterly at the Slade School.

Vaughan is known for his journals, selections from which were published in 1966 and more extensively in 1989, after his death. As a rather private man, troubled by his sexuality, he is known largely through these journals. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1975 and committed suicide in 1977, recording his last moments in his diary as the drugs overdose took effect.

Keith Vaughan (1912-1977), Adoration, 1961


Oil Pastel,18 ½ x 16 in (47.5 x 40.6 cm)
Signed and dated

Collections: The Matthiesen Gallery; Waddington’s (stock no B 6002); Private Collection, GB
Exhibited : Whitechapel Gallery Keith Vaughan Retrospective 1962 (310)

There is a clear religious significance to the choice of title, although as Gerard Hastings points out with Vaughan ‘’there is also likely to have been a psycho-sexual connotation’’: The Adoration implying a ‘’physical obsession / intimate sexual fixation’’.
The work is done in oil Pastel, a medium Vaughan adopted during his time in America in 1959. Gerard Hastings comments that this picture is an exercise in the ‘’overlaying of one on top of another, scraping them away, mixing them on the page and playing off opaque and translucent areas against each other’’.

We are most grateful to Gerard Hastings for his help compiling this entry.

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