Thursday, March 22, 2012
Keith Vaughan's Tom Sawyer
If he had lived, this year would have seen Keith Vaughan's 100th birthday. As a consequence there is something of a flutter or all things Vaughan at the moment and last weekend, R and I went to the Pallant Gallery in Chichester who have a large and excellent exhibition of his works at the moment. It's a brilliant exhibition and the Pallant is going from strength to strength in its ability to present A-list exhibitions. Like the Edward Burra show before it, this one has that rare quality where you actually want to read every word of the curatorial text beside each painting: there's nothing ethereal and art-nonsensical about the texts, rather they are clear, interesting and above all, supremely relevant to what you are looking at. The exhibition, contained in three rooms, covers all the periods of Vaughan's too-short career and the middle room in particular, shows off his large figural studies or assemblages of figures in brilliant style with a dark blue wall colour helping to create a cocoon-like feeling, a small and sacred space "with secular intent".
A display case in the first room of the exhibition reminds us of just how involved Vaughan was in book design and illustration. And so, mine own contribution today is some illustrations from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Paul Elek: Campden Classics, London, 1947). I think it would be fair to say that some of the illustrations are more sucessful than others, but where they really work it seems almost as if you have Vaughan's own copy in your hands and he has been doodling on the blank pages left by the printer. Below is just a small selection.