‘I want to know what I am, what I want, what I can do, what is real, what is lovely.’
The post-war British artist Keith Vaughan (1912–77) was not only a supremely accomplished painter; he was an impassioned, eloquent writer. Image of a Man is the first book to provide a comprehensive critical reading of Vaughan’s extraordinary journal, which spans thirty-eight years and sixty-one volumes to form a major literary work and a fascinating document of changing times.
From close textual analysis of the original manuscripts, this book uncovers the attitudes and arguments that shaped and reshaped Vaughan’s identity as a man and as an artist. It reveals a continual process of self-construction through journal-writing, undertaken to navigate the difficulties of conscientious objection, the complications of desire as a gay man, and the challenges of making meaningful art.
By focussing on Vaughan’s journal-writing in the context of its many influences and its centrality to his art practice, Image of a Man offers not only a compelling new critical biography of a significant yet underappreciated artist, but also a sustained argument on the constructed nature of the ‘artist’ persona in early and mid-twentieth-century culture – and the opportunities afforded by journal and diary forms to make such constructions possible.