Going Underground In London with Cyril E Power’s Machine Age Modernism

Power's linocuts of dash and verve reflect the claustrophobic energy to city life

Britain between the wars was uncertain, disillusioned and nostalgic. Cyril Power (17 December 1872 – 25 May 1951) captured the mood in the 1920s and 1930s through art.

An architect and historian of medieval buildings who worked on aircraft repair during the First World War, in 1922 at age 50 he met fellow artist Sybil Andrews (19 April 1898 – 21 December 1992). The pair teamed up and worked together from a studio in London until 1938.


Cyril E Power prints


They produced linocuts of jangling colour and dynamic compositions that showcased the speed and clashes of their era. In one of Power’s pictures –  a picture he first called ‘robottomless pit’ and then ‘Whence & Whither?’  – he shows us a platoon of similarly dressed people crammed onto an escalator as it descends, the expressionless riders apparently as mechanised as the moving staircase. In another picture, a lone figure peers up at an escalator, seemingly unsure of what to do.

These were, after all, new devices. The first escalator in the London Underground was installed at Earl’s Court station in 1911. The operators invited a disabled army veteran to take the first ride in an effort to show the wary just how easy and safe it was to use. Before long, ecalators were commonplace.


Cyril E Power prints

‘The Escalator’ by Cyril Power. Buy the print.


Power’s linocuts cut an effervescent dash. He and other students at London’s Grosvenor School of Modern Art (which he helped found in 1925) were taught by Claude Flight (British, 1881-1955) to work with linoleum cut, a relief-printmaking technique related to the woodcut. An inexpensive, synthetic material created in the mid-nineteenth century, lino was modern and easy to use.


‘Tube Train’ by Cyril Power. Buy the print.

Cyril E Power prints

‘The Sunshine Roof’ by Cyril Power. Buy the print.

Thee Tube Station. Buy the print.

The Eight by Cyril E. Power

The Exam Room by Cyril E. Power

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