CYRIL MANN  (1911-1980)


Cyril Mann believed that no artist worth his soul should ever follow an "ism", or "belong to a school". Building on the legacy of Turner, Van Gogh and Cezanne, his ambition was to make people see nature in a new light.

Throughout a painting career that spanned over half a century – from the 1920s until his death on January 7, 1980 – Mann refused to join what he termed 'the bandwagon of abstraction for its own sake'. "The last word on realism has not and never will be said," he insisted.

Cyril Mann's art developed through three interlinked phases, starting with his earliest beginnings as a child prodigy at the Nottingham School of Art. His formative contact in 1928 with Arthur Lismer, one of the Group of Seven landscape painters in Canada, led him back to London. He entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1933. Then followed two years of art studies in Paris under Scottish Colourist J D Fergusson, before war forced him to return to England and five years' service as a Gunner.

In Islington where he lived in the 1940s, Mann produced some of the most evocative paintings ever done of the City's bomb damage, much sought after and admired today. Then, moved into a council flat without daylight, he produced for a brief period some startlingly original, formalised still life paintings of everyday objects and their cast 'solid shadows' in electric light.

The final phase began in Bevin Court, when Cyril Mann lived there from 1956 to 1964 and where a commemorative plaque was unveiled on September 28, 2013. The period sees his highly-charged, emotional masterpieces, painted direct at great speed, as the dynamic effects of sunlight and shadow take precedence over subject matter.

Mann lived most of his life in a council flat, battling poverty and often suffering extreme mental and physical ill health. He refused to use a studio, not for economic reasons, but because he said he would lose all inspiration if he'd have to travel to work before picking up his brushes.

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