Road to the Sea oil on paper laid on thick card 26 x 37 cm. (10 1/4 x 14 5/8 in.)
PROVENANCE: Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, where acquired by the family of the present owner, 17 May 1958
EXHIBITED: Bristol, Royal West of England Academy, Spring Exhibition, 1958, no.104 Bath, Cleeve Hill, Bath Festival Exhibition, Loan Exhibition of Paintings from Private Collections, 8-16 June 1963, no.33 Bristol, Bristol City Art Gallery, 1987-90
Vaughan made several trips to Ireland in the late 1950s, making drawings and collecting visual information in his notebooks as he went along. These studies of figures and landscape features were later worked on and developed into paintings on his return to London. The artist visited Ireland in September 1957 and returned the following year, travelling around the rugged West Coast to Donegal and then to Dublin (note the pencil sketch, Donegal Outhouse, 1958). It is probable that initial ideas for the present work were generated on this visit, with the painting being executed later in his Belsize park studio. At this time Vaughan was developing a style that was at once abstract and figurative. "I seem to be purposefully trying to make a composition of mutual contradictions. Figures which aren't figures, landscape space which is something else, shapes which are neither abstract nor figurative." (Keith Vaughan: Journal, November 27, 1957).
Vaughan described the Irish landscape as the "perfect geographical situation... with coast, rocky harbours, wide beaches, mountains, river scenery, all within 6 10 miles in different directions. Hard to believe any city would have more to offer.... Rain the most persistent feature of this place." (Keith Vaughan: Journal (unpublished entry), August 1958). He was clearly taken by the rugged Celtic landscape, if not the weather, and admirably captures its quality in the grey/green hues and the vigorous application of the pigment. The almost seamless integration of the disposition and temperament of the figure with the character of the setting is perhaps one of Vaughan's most notable achievements as an artist.
We are grateful to Gerard Hastings, author of Drawing to a Close: The Final Journals of Keith Vaughan (Pagham Press, West Sussex, 2012), for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.