Artist Focus: Cyril Power

Celebrated for his contributions to the Grosvenor School of Modern Art, Cyril Power was a founding member of the Claude Flight group, revolutionising the linocut print medium in the early 20th century. As the oldest child of an architect father, Power’s interest in the arts and design were encouraged throughout his childhood, eventually becoming an architect himself. Power went on to win the Sloane Medallion awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for his designs, as well as write and publish a three-volume book, The History of English Medieval Architecture, illustrated with his own drawings.

CYRIL POWER. Fine Art. Leonard Joel Auctions
Cyril Power (British, 1872-1951) The Tube Station c.1932, colour linocut on oriental tissue ed. 50/60, 24.5 x 29cm | $35,000-45,000

Moving to London in 1925, Power assisted Claude Flight in establishing the Grosvenor School of Modern Art. While attending Flight’s linocut classes at night, Power taught architecture and structural form during the day. This art and architecture crossover is evident from his early linocut works such as Lavenham 1928 and Westminster Cathedral 1928, each bearing structurally accurate building elements, depicted in monochromatic ink. As his practice developed, so did his interest in movement, speed and metropolitan life. Filled with layered colour and often a touch of humour, this period of his practice is what he is now most celebrated for.

Symbolising the modernisation of the machine and transport, The Tube Station captures the rapid pace of London’s underground railway system during the 1920s and 30s. A vibrant red train emerges from the left, sweeping across the frame and directing the viewer towards the dark tunnel of the underground. Fluid lines and forms indicate the speed at which the train is slicing through the air straight past the railway worker, with their hand raised in motion. Power’s signature design elements are present, from the sweeping art deco design to the blue and green hues mirrored across both the platform and curved arches. The complexities of line and repetitive form hollow out the focal point, paving the way for the red carriage to cut through the centre of the work.

Printed from 5 blocks in yellow ochre, red, light cobalt blue, viridian and dark blue on oriental tissue, The Tube Station captures the essence of movement and vitality that the Grosvenor School was recognised for. Employing the linocut technique, this fluid carved medium allowed its students to create bold, sweeping lines and intricate details with precision and bold colouring, many of which are now housed in major collections including: MOMA, New York; The National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, where another impression of this print is housed. 

At such a transformative point in modern history, The Tube Station encapsulates the spirit of the interwar period, a time of rapid urbanisation and social change. London’s underground railway system, often referred to as the Tube, became a symbol of modernity and progress. The significance of Power’s prints lay in the fact that he captured London during this exciting period, depicting everyday scenes which are considered to carry cultural significance, but are also highly collectible editions sought after internationally.

Lucy Foster | Senior Specialist, Fine Art

Banner Image (detail): Cyril Power (British, 1872-1951) The Tube Station c.1932, colour linocut on oriental tissue ed. 50/60, 24.5 x 29cm | $35,000-45,000

June 2023