Cyril Mann: Painter of Light and Shadow
January 12 - March 31
Prodigiously gifted yet constantly troubled, Mann created a body of work covering a variety of styles, with echoes of Neo-Romanticism, Pop Art, and the Scottish Colourists. Despite this diversity, his paintings are always characterised by their visionary and dynamic depictions of light and shadow. This exhibition will trace his journey through life via the paintings he created.
Born in Nottingham, Mann’s artistic talents were obvious from an early age. At twelve, he became the youngest ever person to win a scholarship to Nottingham School of Art. At fourteen, he painted ‘Dark Satanic Mills’ (1925), a leafy landscape with an ominous factory building in the background, belching out smoke.
Family financial duties took Mann out of art school, but he soon made his escape to Canada with a priest’s company, all expenses paid. It’s unclear whether he ever intended to stick with the priest training, as shortly after getting to Canada he set off on his own adventure. Eventually working as a printer in British Columbia in 1931, the beauty of his surroundings inspired him to pick up his paintbrushes once more.
Back in England in 1933, Mann moved to London, and his life as an artist was on its way. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools, paid for by a benefactor who believed in his talent. Later, he became a teacher himself at the LCC Central School of Art, and struggled with attaining the recognition as an artist he felt he deserved. Enthusiasts and gallerists are just beginning now to awaken to the depth and variety of his striking work.
Cyril Mann: Painter of Light and Shadow will touch on all the eras of his artistic career. From scenes of post-war London life, to explorations of nature including nudes, flowers and fruit. The sun is ever present in his landscapes and urban scenes of the 1930s and 40s – golden, glowing orbs, cutting through the skies with rays of light, illuminating gloomy scenes below. In the 1950s he entered his Solid Shadow period, painting still lifes in bold, block colours with thick black outlines. His later work in the 1960s and 70s had a lighter touch – colours appear to be dashed on in confident, random strokes, creating rough impressions of plants, people and landscapes.
The Cyril Mann Story
On Thurs 7 February 2019, Cyril Mann’s second wife, Renske van Slooten, will be at The Lightbox in conversation with Robert Travers, Director of Piano Nobile gallery. Hear about the fascinating story of Renske and Cyril: after turning up on his doorstep in 1960, 28 years his junior, she became model, muse and chief money-earner. Discover the troubled artist’s life and work from van Slooten’s unique personal perspective.
Accompanying Exhibition at Piano Nobile
This winter Piano Nobile will present an exhibition of Cyril Mann’s solid shadow paintings. These innovative still lifes give substance to shadows, depicting the shade around objects with dense, attractive paint surfaces. Mann painted these works after moving to a dingy flat in Old Street, below a gold bullion dealer where obligatory bars on the windows blocked out the daylight. It was then that he started painting his subjects under the glare of a lightbulb. As the shadows became sharper, so did his depiction of them. Though they were painted in the 1950s, Mann’s solid shadow paintings have a freshness and clarity that matches the work of later Pop and post-Pop artists like Patrick Caulfield, Michael Craig-Martin and Julian Opie.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. For more information and a price list, please contact the gallery.