In the landscapes, still lifes and nudes of Cyril Mann (1911–80), sharp contrasts of light and shadow set him apart from other modern British painters, revealing affinities with Romanticism, Pop art and Scottish Colourism. This is a welcome reassessment of an often overlooked painter. Find out more from the Lightbox’s website.
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Mann was a precocious talent – at the age of 12 he become the youngest person to gain a scholarship to Nottingham School of Art, and painted this sombre landscape at 14. With its juxtaposition of bright pastoral idyll and umbrous urban factory, the work prefigures the painter’s prevailing interest in contrasts between light and dark.
After a spell working at different jobs from mining to logging in British Columbia, Mann moved to London in 1933 to pick up his career in earnest. This self-portrait, with its strong chiaroscuro effects, dates from this period.
This moody still life dates to Mann’s ‘Solid Shadow’ period of the 1950s, which saw the painter adopting cloisonné techniques to create solid blocks of contrasting colours, as with the yellow dahlias and the deep blue of the vase.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Mann began to employ lighter, more impressionistic brushstrokes to model tone, as evinced in this vividly rendered interior, with two nudes and a self-portrait hanging on the wall.