For much of the war Vaughan was stationed at Eden Camp, near Malton, in Yorkshire. Army life precluded him setting up a functioning studio in his barracks and, as a consequence, he was unable to work with canvas and oils. Instead he produced a series of small, intense gouaches combined with various mixed media, including wax crayons and Indian ink. He recorded daily life in the army and the landscape around him. In Soldiers in a Wood his platoon is engaged in some sort of land clearing activity. At first sight this appears to be a fine example of Neo-Romantic, wartime painting. The dark, brooding atmosphere, the woodland setting and the association of man and nature are all characteristic qualities of that peculiarly British tendency. However, Vaughan later re-worked this piece significantly. An illustration, in its original form, appears in Keith Vaughan Journal and Drawings: 1939-1965 (Alan Ross, London, 1966, p. 69). The monochromatic pen and ink drawing, with additional ink washes are characteristic of his war work. It was a time of ‘make do’ and rationing and he confined himself to what could be squeezed into his knapsack: a few bottles of ink, some tubes of gouache and a selection of wax crayons. By combining these simple materials, he was able to create surprisingly diverse ranges of tones and variations of hues. In the 1960s the original work was drastically altered when Vaughan added all the present colour washes (the cream-coloured foreground, the ultramarine patch in the middle distance and the brown and green gouache and oil pastel sections). The result is a tighter, more pictorial effect.
Provenance: The Hamet Gallery, where purchased by Mrs Wright Ludington, October 1971; Agnew’s
Exhibited: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, English and American Drawings, September-October 1973
Literature: Keith Vaughan, Journals and Drawings 1939-1965, London, 1966, p.69