Neapolitan Bathers, 1951, Oil on board, Osborne Samuel Gallery, London © The Estate of Keith Vaughan. All rights reserved, DACS 2012
Vaughan wrote that 'a painter has only one basic idea which probably lasts him a lifetime. Mine is the human figure.' From the 1950s onwards he painted a series of oil paintings of male nudes, which culminated in his 'Assembly of Figures' series. Whilst the subject of the male nude undoubtedly reflects Vaughan's homosexuality, these paintings transcend homoeroticism to express a wider, humanist vision of mankind.
Vaughan's images of man are rooted in a chaste classicism, which reflects his awareness of classical Greek sculpture such as the Kouros or Laocoön, and the bathing scenes of Paul Cézanne. Brought together they have an almost religious intensity, but remain secular in intent. The formal tonal relationships in these paintings reflect, in Vaughan's words in his 1968 journal, his efforts to 'make something at once very real and very abstract...the human figure as an abstract element, like a musical chord.'