Figures Against Rocks signed and dated 'Vaughan 54' (lower right) gouache on paper laid on board 13.7 x 16.8 cm. (5 3/8 x 6 5/8 in.)
Against the backdrop of a turbulent private life, the 1950s can be considered a period of success and fame for Keith Vaughan, who became an established figure in the London art world. Vaughan began to pare his work down and the darker backgrounds, as in the present example, help to emphasise the figurative nature of the composition. The darker colouring of this time is partly born out of the artists 1949 travels in Finistère, which he described as a 'harsh dour and dramatic landscape: black, white, grey and ochre' (Malcolm Yorke, Keith Vaughan, his life and work, Constable, London, 1990, p.148).
Figures Against Rocks has much in common with the acclaimed Fishermen and Bathers (1951), which like the present work, incorporates a group of figures outdoors against a coastal background. There is a feeling of isolation and alienation in both these compositions as each of the men is facing a different way without overlapping or touching each other. The painter and critic Patrick Heron felt that the boat and cliff theme had been borrowed from Georges Braque but stated, 'they are organised like landscapes, with a spatial sense of a middle distance and a horizon, and not, as Braque's landscapes are, like a still life' (Ibid, p.148)