Cyril Power: Rhythms of Modern Life

Exploring the vibrant and dynamic art of England’s most celebrated avant-gardist linocut printmarker.

‘When we say a work of Art has form, we mean its instinct with Life.’ Cyril Power, 1924

The Spirit of Sport

Cyril Edward Power (1872–1951) is an English artist celebrated for his iconic linocut prints. He worked as an architect until his early fifties, then jumping ship to embark on a career as an avant-gardist linocut printmarker. He went on to become a co-founder of the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London, under the inspirational leadership of Claude Flight.

Power is most celebrated for his stylised sporting images. From football to folk dance, rowing to relays, his colourful composition and fluid lines perfectly translate the movement, grace and energy of sport.

Tennis, c.1933 (linocut), Cyril Edward Power (1874-1951) / Private Collection / Photo © Osborne Samuel Ltd, London / Bridgeman Images; Skaters (detail). c.1932 (linocut), Cyril Edward Power (1874-1951) / Private Collection / Photo © Osborne Samuel Ltd, London / Bridgeman Images
Tennis, c.1933 (linocut), Cyril Edward Power (1874-1951) / Private Collection / Photo © Osborne Samuel Ltd, London / Bridgeman Images; Skaters (detail). c.1932 (linocut), Cyril Edward Power (1874-1951) / Private Collection / Photo © Osborne Samuel Ltd, London / Bridgeman Images

Capturing a tumultuous age

In his artwork, Power explored all aspects of society around him in an authentically avant-garde spirit. The 1920s and 30s were, on the one hand, progressive for its leisure and popular culture yet, on the other hand, still troubled by the Great Depression and political and economic instability – an age we can still resonate with today.

The contradiction is hinted at in a number of Power’s prints. The Merry Go-Round is decoratively playful whilst also seemingly on the verge of heading out of control. The London Underground print, Whence and Whither?, compares the mass production of modern technology to the mass production of faceless commuters descending into the underworld.

The Merry-Go-Round, c.1930 (linocut), Cyril Edward Power (1874-1951) / Private Collection / Photo © Osborne Samuel Ltd, London / Bridgeman Images; Whence and Whither? (detail), c. 30 (linocut), Cyril Edward Power (1874-1951) / Private Collection / Photo © Osborne Samuel Ltd, London / Bridgeman Images
The Merry-Go-Round, c.1930 (linocut), Cyril Edward Power (1874-1951) / Private Collection / Photo © Osborne Samuel Ltd, London / Bridgeman Images; Whence and Whither? (detail), c. 30 (linocut), Cyril Edward Power (1874-1951) / Private Collection / Photo © Osborne Samuel Ltd, London / Bridgeman Images

Linocuts and Revolution

The linocut print is a relief print made from linoleum fastened to a wooden block. It was introduced by the German Expressionists and was promoted as a non-elitist, widely accessible new art form, whose figurative, semi-abstract language was one of radical simplification.

Linocuts were the perfect medium for evoking the restlessness of modern life and complimented the cultural manifesto ‘Aims of the Art Today,’ jointly composed by Cyril Power and Sybil Andrews in 1924, which argued for radical modernity in art to match an industrial society.

The polemic tones of the text were in keeping with the Italian Futurists and English Vorticists a decade before, yet their mechanically hard edged and jagged style, fast becoming associated with Fascist propaganda, was supplanted by Power for a more fluid pattern and rhythm, conveying a more poetic, yet still dynamic, urban experience.

 

Speed Trial, c.1932 (linocut), Cyril Edward Power (1874-1951) / Private Collection / Photo © Osborne Samuel Ltd, London / Bridgeman Images
Speed Trial, c.1932 (linocut), Cyril Edward Power (1874-1951) / Private Collection / Photo © Osborne Samuel Ltd, London / Bridgeman Images

Find out more

Further reading: Cyril Power Linocuts: A Complete Catalogue, 2008, by Philip Vann

Browse all Cyril Power images in the Bridgeman archive

Bridgeman Images represents the Cyril Power Estate for image licensing and reproduction. Contact our sales team on uksales@bridgemanimages.com for more information.

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