Highlights from ‘Minton, Vaughan, Ayrton, Piper - Neo-Romantic Drawings and Watercolours from the Collection of the late John Constable’

An exhibition now open to visit by appointment, or online, until 20th July, 2020
June 25, 2020
Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) Soldiers Marching, 1944
Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) Soldiers Marching, 1944

Highlights from ‘Minton, Vaughan, Ayrton, Piper - Neo-Romantic Drawings and Watercolours from the Collection of the late John Constable’

At the opening of our current exhibition, Lizzie Collins, Director of Zuleika Gallery and Harry Moore-Gwyn met at the Masons Yard gallery in London to discuss some of the highlights for a short video. We have compiled some of the highlights here, and the highlights video can be viewed at the link at the end of this blog.


John Minton (1917-1957) Seated Man

Pen and ink wash, 37.5 x 27.9 cm


Minton’s beautiful portrait drawings are in some senses what he has become best known for, the artist had strong, intense relationships with many of his models, which can be seen in the wonderful drawings of seated men in this exhibition, and often remind people of the drawings of Lucian Freud. Minton was often compared to Freud as a draftsman, they have a remarkable strength, and are, perhaps, hugely undervalued today.

Provenance: A gift from the artist to Feliks Topolski; Christie's, London May 14, 1992 




John Minton (1917-1957) Portrait of A Young Man - Kevin Maybury, ca. 1940's

Pen and ink, 32 × 25 cm.


This highlight of the exhibition is a portrait of Kevin Maybury, another important figure in Minton’s life, shown sleeping. There is a wonderfully intense use of ink. With its strong dark colours that could be achieved it was very much a medium of the New-Romantic era.

Provenance: Charterhouse, Sherborne, April 2016 bt John Constable




John Minton (1917-1957) The Dark Wood, c.1950

Signed l.r.: John Minton and bears title (to reverse of backboard) Pen, ink and sepia wash, 24 x 31 cm.


A fine example of Minton’s style is shown in this drawing of a wood, a dark, Neo-Romantic landscape, drawn in the distinctive sepia ink frequently used by Minton. Minton travelled to Jamaica in the final months of 1950. In the following year he worked on his sketches from that trip to produce an entire exhibition at Lefevre Gallery of work based on his time there, as well as the monumental painting “Jamaican Village” which he exhibited at the 1951 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. The present, intense, landscape drawing is also probably a Jamaican subject. 





Keith Vaughan (1912-1977)  Illustration for “The Spirit of Jem”

Pen and black ink, 11.4 x 19.6 cm.


This drawing relates to a book by P.H.Newby (1947 by the same title, but was not used.  The Museum of the University of Aberystwyth purchased the complete set of 41 original pen and ink illustrations for P.H.Newby's “The Spirit of Jem” (1947) together with 69 photographs and 363 items of printed ephemera, proofs, maga- zine advertisements, book jackets etc. The latter formed Vaughan's personal archive of his output as an illustrator and graphic designer. It is believed that there may have been four versions of this particular drawing, two of which are in the University’s gallery collection, one is shown here in the collection of the late John Constable, and the whereabouts of the fourth is unknown. This beautiful, rare drawing has a strong graphic composition classic of a book illustration with a distinct level of detail in the cross-hatching. 

Compare the illustration on page 121 of the book, published by John Lehmann, 1947. Provenance: Redfern Gallery, London; Wenlock Fine Art (June, 1996); John Constable (August 2008)




Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) Idol, 1940

Pen, ink and wash on paper,12 × 16.5 cm.


This intense Keith Vaughan drawing is typical of the poetic, sometimes mythologically-inspired, subjects that are seen in his drawings and sketchbooks dating from his time posted in Wiltshire at the beginning of the Second World War.


Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) Superflumina Babylonis, c.1960

The first inscribed 'Superflumina Babylonis' (lower left)

Pen, ink and sepia wash, 16 x 16 cm; and 16 x 20 cm (two works framed as one)


One of a few examples we have of a double drawing in the exhibition, the title of this work, “Super Flumina Babylonis”, relates to Psalm 137 and in English translates to “By the rivers of Babylon”. The psalm is one of most powerful and evocative in the Old Testament and relates to the period of the Israelites in exile. It has often been set to music. The figure in the smaller work is possibly playing a lute (or similar) and the lower figure appears perhaps to be playing a harp or hanging it from a tree (another reference to the psalm text)  it is quite a desperate, intense drawing, and shows the strong figurative quality one would expect of Vaughan.

Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) Soldiers Marching, 1944

Wash over pen and ink,17.8 × 12.7 cm.


This drawing dates from when Vaughan was an orderly at a Prisoner of War camp near York. He produced some remarkable work of soldiers while stationed there; Quite dark, brooding subjects perhaps reflecting the era. Keith Vaughan was posted in early October 1943 to Eden Camp, near Malton, a small country town between York and Scarborough. It was Prisoner of War Camp Number 83, built in 1942 by Italian POW's and covered eight acres with forty-five single storey huts, of which eighteen were in the prisoners' compound. By the time Vaughan arrived the prisoners were mostly German. Vaughan was the only Conscientious objector employed in the camp. He did no guard or escort duties but worked as an Orderly Room clerk with the rank of private and a wage of ten shillings per week. At first he lived in the huts with the other men and made a few barrack-life sketches as he had done at Codford but he soon volunteered to go on almost permanent night duty, sleeping in the office in case the telephone should ring.

Vaughan's horizons were limited to how far he could walk, hitch a lift, or travel on rural buses so he usually sought subjects near the camp. Vaughan remained at Eden Camp throughout 1944 and this drawing of five soldiers on the march was drawn there.


Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) Soldiers Erecting a Tent

Pen and sepia ink, 13.5 x 21 cm

Provenance: Anthony Hepworth Fine Art, Bath; bt. Private buyer 1st October 1995; Sotheby's New Bond Street 19 November 2014, Lot 23; A Way Of Life: The Time Ellis Collection, bt.John Constable

Exhibited: London, Olympia, Keith Vaughan 3 March 2002 Catalogue no.432 




Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) Burning Streets, 1942

Signed with initials l.r.: KV and inscribed and dated 1942 Burning streets 1942 Ink, wash and watercolour, 9.5 x 13.5 cm


“Burning Streets” is strongly influenced by the work of Graham Sutherland whose powerful images of London during the Blitz date (for the most part) from the previous year. Vaughan met Sutherland at the same date and he showed Vaughan how to harness the mixed media of water- colour, gouache, ink and wax-resist to great and dramatic effect. Vaughan described the results of this “as baffling and exciting as Blake” (see Malcolm York, “Keith Vaughan, his life and work”, Constable, 1990, p.77



Keith Vaughan, Figure in a Wood, 1951

Pencil, studio stamp on reverse, 9 × 13.5 cm.

With the artist’s studio stamp (verso) Pencil, 9 x 13.5 cm


This drawing of a naked figure shown standing in a wood is an example of Vaughan’s exquisite draftsmanship and encapsulates what many of Vaughan’s larger paintings are known for, the sense of empathy towards the figure is a classic emotion portrayed through Vaughan’s work.

Provenance: The Artist's Studio; Prunella Clough Collection 



John Piper, CH (1903-1992) Caerfarchell, Pembrokeshire

Signed l.r.: John Piper and inscribed and dated l.l. Landscape of rocks and cottages/

Caerfarchell/Middle Mill/23 vii 80

Watercolour with bodycolour over pen and ink and crayon, 37 x  55 cm. Hand-signed by artist, signed (lower right) and inscribed and dated ‘landscape of Rocks and Cottages/Caerfarchell/Middle Milll/23 vii 80’ 


John and Myfanwy Piper discovered Pembrokeshire first in the 1930s and in 1962 they bought a ruined cottage and a studio near Garn Fawr. The studio was set right at the foothills of these crags and served as an excellent space for retreating to his painting for Piper when in Wales. Piper's Welsh landscapes are among his strongest works as they record the sheer power of the elements in the vast and barren landscape.




This exhibition is a collaboration between Zuleika Gallery and Harry Moore-Gwyn and features 38 drawings and watercolours by some of the leading exponents of the neo-romantic movement in Britain from the collection of the late John Constable. Constable, who died at the age of 91 last year, was one of life's true connoisseurs and aesthetes, who spent his lifetime collecting and researching art. It has been a pleasure to catalogue this collection, some of which we present here, and we are grateful to his business partner Nigel Collins for all his support in putting this together. 


View the highlights video  


‘Minton, Vaughan, Ayrton and Piper Neo-Romantic Drawings and Watercolours from the collection of the late John Constable’

An exhibition presented by Zuleika Gallery and Harry Moore-Gwyn


Third Floor, 6 Mason’s Yard, St. James’s, London, SW1Y 6BU.

An exhibition catalogue is available on our website, and a fully illustrated printed catalogue is also available. The exhibition is open in London by appointment until 20th July, with a maximum of 4 people in the gallery at a time.


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