Will Vaughan

Will Vaughan our chairman since 2012 retired from his position as Professor of the History of Art at Birkbeck College, London, in 2006.  It was then that he and his wife Pek Peppin came to leave their London home to live full-time in their ancient fifteenth-century farmhouse, Cockhill, outside Castle Cary.  They had bought the property in a dilapidated state in 1982 and had been painstakingly restoring it according to the guidance of English Heritage during their vacations.

In his wide-ranging career as an Art Historian Will came to specialise in German Romanticism (Caspar David Friedrich) and the work of the English Romantic and friend of William Blake, Samuel Palmer.  In fact William’s fascination with the work of Palmer did not end with his retirement.  The year before, in 2005 he had curated a major exhibition on Palmer, Vision and Landscape for the British Museum, but on retirement his commitment continued as he worked on what remains the most complete and definitive study of Palmer, Shadows on the Wall, published in 2015.

Will’s interest in Palmer goes back a long way. His physician father died when he was only seven and his mother, who had trained at Chelsea School of Art, settled in Oxford where he went to Magdalen College School.  There he showed a talent for drawing and art history and on visiting the Ashmolean came across Palmer’s sepia prints which he remembers made a great impression on him.  He then started an Art course at the Ruskin School of Art at Oxford, but decided to move to the Courtauld Institute in London to specialise in Art History, a move that launched him on his academic career.

Being an artist and being an art historian do not easily go together, but in Will’s case they have once the pressures of academic life were over when he and Pek settled in Castle Cary.  It was then that he decided to take up etching seriously.  To do this he felt he needed proper training from someone who really knew how to do it and on joining Bruton Art Society he was introduced to the techniques and skills needed by Bridget Moreton.  Since then he has been producing fine sets of etchings and has exhibited regularly at The Bath Society of Artists, The Royal West of England Academy (Bristol), The New English Art Club (London) and the Royal Society of British Artists (London).

Will feels his work has been both inspired and influenced by Samuel Palmer.  It is not that he is in any sense copying Palmer’s work, but more that he feels an affinity of mood and an appreciation of sunset, low light, silhouettes and the end of the day and the emotions that they give rise to.  At times he feels, when an etching is going well, it is almost as if Palmer were watching him.  At the same time Will is happy to explore new ways of producing etchings, in particular the use of special dry point plastic sheets which are both much cheaper and easier to use than conventional metal plates, This is a new technology which might attract others of us to follow the etching path.

To enjoy more of Will’s work visit; https://willvaughan.com/etchings/

John Baxter