A commemorative plaque honouring the maverick artist, Cyril Mann (1911-1980), will be unveiled 2pm, on September 28, 2013, at Bevin Court, the Islington council flats where he lived and produced some of his finest paintings.
Thought to be the first-ever on a local-authority block, the green plaque is one of three awarded by public vote in Islington’s annual People’s Plaque Competition. The scheme pays tribute to “movers and shakers of the past”, who made the borough what it is today. Mann follows in the footsteps of renowned Islington painter, Walter Sickert, similarly honoured in 2010.
In an art career that spanned half a century, from the 1920s onwards, Cyril Mann bucked the trend of fashionable abstraction, determined to drive realism forward. He insisted an artist’s function was “not to copy nature, but to highlight new aspects of realism and use it as a point of departure”.
Subject matter in Cyril Mann’s paintings recedes into the background, as the artist gives precedence to the dynamic effects of light and shadow in a different way from his predecessors, J M W Turner and the Impressionists.
Mann’s paintings are idiosyncratic and rarely easy, yet in recent years they have found admirers worldwide, including Peter Millican, ceo of King’s Place Arts Centre, who will unveil the plaque. Mr Millican was among the first to propose the artist for the honour, along with art critics, John Russell Taylor of The Times and Mark Hudson of the Sunday Mail.
The tiny seventh-floor Bevin Court flat proved to be a source of inspiration to the artist. Not only was it flooded with light, he was joined in 1960 by his second wife, Renske, who became his model and his muse.
A loan exhibition, Cyril Mann: The Bevin Court Years 1956-1964, can be seen at the Islington Local History Centre, Finsbury Library, 245 St John Street, EC1V 4NB from September 25 – October 1 2013. Please telephone 0207 527 7988 for an appointment and opening times.
An exhibition will also run at Piano Nobile Gallery, 129 Portland Road, London W11 4LW from September 20 – October 5 (open Monday – Friday 11am – 6pm, Saturday 11am – 4pm or by appointment)