Awkward Artefacts: The ‘Erotic Fantasies’ of Keith Vaughan
Artist(s): Keith Vaughan
Author(s): Gerard Hastings
Year published: 2017
Publisher: Pagham Press
Total Pages: 137
Illustrations: Colour throughout
Over the course of more than twenty years the British artist Keith Vaughan produced fifty-two gouache paintings and drawings, which he placed in a specially made album. On the front cover he inscribed the words: Erotic Fantasies 1940-1960. These were discovered in his studio after his death and then locked away in a cupboard by the artist’s executor. In 1980 the author Gerard Hastings discovered them but, because of their frank and explicit ‘queer’ subject matter, they were neither allowed to be exhibited publicly nor privately viewed, except by a handful of people. 1991 the entire collection came up for auction at Sotheby’s and has been kept private ever since.
Awkward Artefacts: The ‘Erotic Fantasies’ of Keith Vaughan tells the story of these highly moving and disturbing works, which have been subjected to both secrecy and censorship since they were painted. Reproduced from recently discovered transparencies, taken over thirty years ago, Vaughan’s ‘Erotic Fantasies’ are fully illustrated here for the first time. This new research, assembled to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the artist’s death, expands our knowledge of Vaughan as a painter of the male nude and also our understanding of him as a highly sensitive and complex man.
Before decriminalization exactly fifty years ago, gay people in Britain lived and worked in an often hostile climate, subjected to homophobic prejudice and even blackmail. Vaughan was no exception. He felt compelled to establish a clear distinction between the paintings that he produced for public consumption and those he made in private for himself. Awkward Artefacts: The ‘Erotic Fantasies’ of Keith Vaughan explores both facets of Vaughan’s work, placing his paintings into the social context of the period, while accounting for their highly sexual imagery by presenting unseen and highly moving autobiographical writings, unpublished journal entries and newly discovered photographs taken by the artist.