Keith Vaughan, Journal & Drawings, 1939-1965, Alan Ross London, 1966, pages 82-83
Malcolm Yorke, Keith Vaughan - His Life and Work, Constable and Co pages 94-95
This gouache, painted in 1944 while Vaughan was still working as a German-language interpreter for the army in Yorkshire, is a characteristic example of the neo-Romantic style, strongly influenced by Graham Sutherland, that he adopted in the early stages of his career. Vaughan had made some contributions to John Lehmann’s influential Penguin New Writing c.1942/3 and through this contact had been invited to show in a war-art exhibition at the National Gallery with, among others, Minton, Craxton and also Sutherland, whom he went to visit in April 1944, the same year that he had his first one-man show at the Lefevre Gallery.
Vaughan’s work of this period, consisting mostly of gouaches and pen and ink drawings is distinguished by a fiercely lyrical line and rich, austere colouring, both qualities that give this landscape subject its intense, poetic authority.
In April 1944 Vaughan was staying near York and on the 18th April 1944 he wrote in his diary 'I want to set down all I can remember of what Graham Sutherland said last Sunday about painting. We were discussing the 'question of perfection in art'. The journals relate how Sutherland had pursued his discussions by comparing Mantegna and Bellini's versions of the Agony in the Garden (both in the National Gallery). The two friends agreed that whilst Mantegna's was the more technical and academic of the two paintings and therefore 'the more perfect', there was a vibrant tension to every relationship in the Bellini which marked it as 'the greater picture'.
The story of Christ suffering and alone in a garden, is ideally suited to a Neo-Romantic interpretation and Vaughan’s very human version seems particularly resonant in the context of the Second World War.