Pen and ink and wash on paper
Inscribed in the artist’s hand lower left, studio stamp on reverse
13.8 x 22.5 cm
Framed in oak
Exhibited: Menier Gallery, London, 2014. No. 59
Literature: Prunella Clough & Keith Vaughan: Visions and Recollections, Pagham Press, p. 90
Provenance: Artist’s estate, private collection
This drawing comes from a wartime sketchbook made at Codford Camp in 1942. It is one of a pair that Vaughan made based on Baudelaire’s poem, Un Voyage à Cythère (1857), which he first read in 1941. It became a favourite poem – so much so that he returned to it at the very end of his life, making it the subject of his Ninth Assembly of Figures (1976), now in the national collection at Tate Britain. He wrote in his wartime journal: Sept 19, 1941. Codford Camp: Baudelaire’s lines have no connection at all but I like their sound and their bitterness and finality. Baudelaire’s second stanza inspired the painting:
Quelle est cette île triste et noire? — C’est Cythère,
Nous dit-on, un pays fameux dans les chansons
Eldorado banal de tous les vieux garcons.
Regardez, après tout, c’est une pauvre terre.
(What is this black, gloomy island? — It’s Cythera,
They tell us, a country celebrated in song,
The banal Eldorado of old bachelors.
Look at it; after all, it is a wretched land.)