1957 Keith Vaughan "Bather" Oil Painting
In the early 1990s, I opened a restaurant in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. A lot of my customers worked for the banks uptown, and one of them told me there was an auction on Saturday at 10:00. It benefited the AIDS Foundation. And this was the first picture that came up. The fella's estate, he was a musician who'd collected a lot of art. The first painting came up and they said it's worth between $10,000 and $12,000, and that's almost like insider trading when they tell you that. But they started the auction at $7,500, there was no bid, dropped to $7,000, 65, 60, 55. It got down to $1,000, and they said, "Now listen, this is a listed artist. "His paintings are bringing in a good price. Let's start the bidding now." And they started at $900, nobody bid, eight... My wife said, "Why don't you bid on it?" and I said, "Well, there's nobody bidding against us," so it got down to two, and I started the bidding at two, and another person joined in at two and a quarter, and immediately, I went to three and a quarter and ended up getting it with the buyer's premium for $350.
As an auctioneer, that story pains me. You do not want to go backwards. What do you know about the painter?
We know he's English, it's signed "1957." We like the colors. I've gone online with my wife and we've looked. His paintings, you know, are still appreciated by a lot of people.
Well, it's by Keith Vaughan, and it's oil on masonite. Keith Vaughan is a British modern painter. This picture is from 1957. The sticker on the back also gives us the title, "Bather." And stylistically, we know the picture is within a few years of 1957 even without that information. He was a conscientious objector in World War II, and that's when he really sort of started doing his art. He was a self-taught artist, but was discovered pretty early. Right after the war, he was part of an important movement called the Neo-Romantic Movement, but very briefly. He very quickly went off in his own direction, and it was pictures like this-- they were often male figures, and usually, they would verge into abstraction, and they got more abstract over the years. He's an interesting story and kind of a sad story, and I think it echoes to some extent what you were talking about. The musician who passed away, whose sale was to benefit AIDS, Vaughan was, and we know this from his journals, was a very troubled, maybe even a bit tortured man, and at the root of that was his sexuality. Unfortunately, in 1975, he was diagnosed with cancer and sadly, in '77, he took his own life. And he was successful, but also withdrawn, and he never really saw how much this market would take off. I would suggest that this painting conservatively is worth $40,000 to $60,000 at auction.
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