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The Sun Is God: The Life of Cyril Mann by…
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The Sun Is God: The Life of Cyril Mann

by John Russell Taylor

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In the opening chapter The Making of an Artist Taylor traces Mann’s family origins and schooling and his early scholarship to art school, his time in Canada and contact with the Group of Seven, his return to England and his war service. The chapter Living with Art continues with the theme with his art education and the Royal Academy and the people prominent in his life. The chapter Living for Art picks up following the break up of his first marriage and the subsequent necessity to find paying employment, meeting of his second wife, and finally the problems of his later life.

The chapter entitled The Art considers Mann’s work with much emphasis on the artists who influenced him prominent among whom were Turner and Van Gogh, but included many others. However what comes through most strongly in all these chapters is a picture of Mann himself, a forceful and overbearing personality. A man obsessed with his own views and ideas and ready to impose them on anyone willing enough to be his audience, often so engrossed in his own thoughts that he would be unaware of those of his listener, or of what was going on around him. Perhaps it is only fitting that this quality should dominate the writing here in the same way as Mann himself would dominate by his own presence; it is certainly clear that he was a man one would find either fascinating or insufferable.

The section of plates runs from page 49 to 160; the dominant themes of Mann’s output being still life, the nude and townscapes, with an overriding interest in the effects of light and shadow. The book concludes with a chronology and A Portrait of My Husband and a Memoir of My Father, the latter two both self-explanatory.

This is a lavishly illustrated book, in addition to the section of around 150 full colour plates, the text is illustrated throughout with black and white contemporary photographs. The plates include several large scale detail images, but sadly one or two of the paintings are reproduced unnecessarily small on the page, why do the designers of such books insist on offering a minuscule image adrift in acres of white space? However that aside it is a intriguing book about a fascinating artists, an artist one would have loved to have met, if only the once! Perhaps having been taught throughout my own art education by those of the same generation as Mann, and who displayed similar traits, I found it particularly interesting; but whatever one thinks of Cyril Mann, one cannot deny the beauty and power, the richness of colour and sense of light, of his painting. ( )
  presto | Apr 24, 2012 |
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