Born in 1944, David Vaughan was a founding member of the British underground art scene in the early 60s. He was deeply involved with the 60s movement and his association with those rock musicians of the time was a major theme for his work. Painting his first mural at age 15, Vaughan went on to produce murals with a fluidity of line and boldness of colour in CarnabyStreet and the Kings Road, London, while still a student at the Slade School of Art. Later he customised cars for the pop stars “in the spirit of the Swinging Sixties”, plus buildings and boutiques. Patrons for customised furniture included Lord Snowdon, Henry Moore and Sir Paul McCartney.
Vaughan became famous in the 1960s for bright murals and posters which reflected the drug-fuelled idealism of the times. He produced murals for some of London’s trendiest boutiques, and his paintings and posters became collectors’ pieces, bought by Eric Clapton and Princess Margaret, among others.
Vaughan was once described as “a modern Goya”. Yet beyond the dark hues of despair, his paintings often contained exuberantly colourful evocations of what life could be if innocence and light replaced darkness and violence.
Vaughan was also a major producer of posters, initially working with photographer David Bailey, through the decades. His 60s prints are now much sought after and have been auctioned at Sothebys London and New York. Vaughan’s etchings have been acquired by public collections, and he undertook painting commissions for numerous prestigious clients including Eric Clapton, Michael Wolff, Prof. Arno Peters and the late HRH Princess Margaret, John Lennon and Jimmy Hendrix.
During the 1970s he employed a variety of young people to assist and learn how to produce a mural, and he also completed many private commissions, re-creating on a smaller scale some of the success he achieved in the 1960s. These included customized shops – Barratts music shop on Oxford Road, Manchester, became a mecca for art/music students who visited to see the huge portraits of jazz and blues musicians adorning the walls, which were just a part of the complete makeover Vaughan gave the premises in 1974.
He became the country’s most prolific mural artist, during the 1970s and early 1980s. He formed the mural group “Noah’s Ark”, which as well as producing mural art for the under-privileged in youth clubs, schools, churches and hospitals (he painted the first British hospital mural at the Duchess of York’s Hospital for Babies in Manchester), but also offered young and disadvantaged people the opportunity to study mural painting first hand.
In the mid-1980s he started to produce his “Victims” series of paintings, death, fear, poverty, torture and nuclear war. Which depicted some of the horrors of modern society, and which were found to be quite controversial at the time. His subjects, as one critic observed, “are the victims of our time, victims of poverty and famine in the third world, or victims of isolation in the rich industrialised countries, not reached by general prosperity: unemployed youths at the edge of town, who, wearing masks, are waiting for something to blow up. People somewhere between desperation and crime.”
In his later career he returned to painting portraits – John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Gallagher and also pencil portraits of David Beckham and Jude Law.