Cyril’s widow Renske on Bevin Courts famous stair case
On 28 September 2013 a very special Islington People’s Plaque was unveiled commemorating Cyril Mann.
After serving in the Second World War as a gunner, Cyril and his first wife lived in a council flat in Paul Street, near City Road. The flat proved to be the worst possible base for an artist. It received no natural light, forcing Cyril to paint in artificial light. For three years he concentrated on shadow formations, doing small, formalized still-life paintings with a strong use of line and colour. During this period, he painted some iconic images of post-war Finsbury and Islington, including sunlight on Finsbury Square, trolley buses near the Angel, and a luminescent Chiswell Street, all providing rare sparks of colour in a grim world. After teaching at the LCC Central School of Art, Cyril was appointed lecturer at Kingsway Day College and Sir John Cass College, specialising in the ‘Technology of Painting’, in 1950.
Cyril Mann’s widow Renske, his daughter Amanda and biographer John Russell Taylor in front of Bevin Court
In 1956, the artist moved to a small one-bedroom flat on the seventh floor of Bevin Court in Cruikshank Street, Finsbury (now Islington). Life took a turn for the better when he married Renske van Slooten in 1960 – she also became his model and muse. At this time, Mann gave up lecturing to concentrate on painting full time. Flooded with light, Bevin Court allowed Mann to explore the dynamic effects of sunlight and shadows in a different way from previous artists. He was fascinated – to the point of obsession – by fierce, dazzling sunlight bouncing off surfaces in constant movement.
Cyril and Renske left Bevin Court in 1964, moving to Walthamstow and then Leyton in East London. Throughout the 1960s, and into the following decade, the artist presented his work in a series of successful exhibitions and one-man shows. Suffering severe health problems in the late-1970s, Cyril Mann died in 1980 in his 69th year.
This video of the unveiling of the plaque is from the Piano Nobile Gallery where you can find out even more about Cyril Mann and his works.