T00502 BATHER: AUGUST 4TH 1961 1961
Inscr. ‘Vaughan’ b.r. and on back of canvas ‘August 4/61’.
Canvas. 40 1/4×36 (102×91·5).
Purchased from the artist through the Whitechapel Art Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1962.
Exh: Whitechapel Art Gallery, March–April 1962 (291, repr. pl.69), and Arts Council tour, May–September 1962 (44).
Lit: Exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1962, p.36.
Repr: Ambassador, No.11, 1962, p.54.
The artist wrote (22 June 1962) that he considered this one of his best works. He felt he had achieved a special balance between the purely abstract and the figurative elements which had hitherto pushed his work into one or other of these categories. ‘The background was a state of chronic dissatisfaction with the “image” in my work which dates from about 1956. At that time I had drawings and plans for dozens of figure paintings which I suddenly found myself unable to believe in sufficiently to carry out. Probably the impact of the American show about that time [Modern Art in the United States, January–February 1956, at the Tate Gallery had something to do with it. I wanted to go beyond the specific, identifiable image - yet I did not want to do an “abstract” painting. I wanted something which had the controlled ambiguity and vitality of a de Kooning but not the “gestural” expressionistic quality.... The Aug 4 Bather was the first break through. Every attempt up to then had finally resolved itself into another figure painting or an “abstract”.... I worked it by a slightly new procedure which consisted of painting towards an image - but destroying the image (with a paint scraper) every time it began to form and threatened to “set” the picture. This kept it loose - but not abstract.’
The artist worked on the picture steadily for six weeks, then put it aside for a fortnight. On taking it up again he completed the outlying areas and much later, around Christmas 1961, softened the contrasts between the descending dark rectangular forms in the left centre.
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II