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Rose Henriques, Artist

June 17, 2017
by the gentle author

In the fifth of my series of profiles of artists featured in EAST END VERNACULAR, Artists who painted London’s East End streets in the 20th century to be published by Spitalfields Life Books in October, I present the paintings of Rose Henriques. Click here to learn how you can support the publication of EAST END VERNACULAR

Portrait of Rose Henriques (1889- 1972) © Ian Berry

Born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Stoke Newington, Rose devoted herself to life of altruistic endeavour, serving as a nurse at Liverpool St Station in the First World War and then as an ambulance driver based in Cannon St Rd in the Second World War.

In 1917, she married Basil Henriques and together they established and ran the settlement in Berners St (later known as Henriques St) pursuing philanthropic work among the  Jewish community in the East End for more than half a century.

Yet somehow Rose also managed to produce a stream of paintings that document the times she lived in intimate human detail, exhibiting her work at the Whitechapel Gallery from 1934 onwards and holding two solo shows there,’Stepney in War & Peace’ in 1947 and ‘Vanishing Stepney’ in 1961.

Coronation Celebrations in Challis Court, 1937

Nine O’Clock News, The Outbreak of War

The New Driver, Ambulance Station, Cannon St Rd

Next Day, Watney St Market, 1941

Bombed Second Time, The Foothills, Tilbury & Southend Railway Warehouses, 1941

Dual Purpose, School Yard in Fairclough St, Tilbury & Southend Railway Warehouses, forties

Line outside Civil Defence Shelter, Turner St, 1942

Stepney Green Synagogue, forties

The Brick Dump, Exmouth St, forties

Club Row Animal Market Carries On, 1943

Fait Accompli, Berner St, 1951

Workrooms for the Elderly, 1954

Archive images courtesy Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives

Cyril Mann, Painter

June 16, 2017
by the gentle author

In the fourth of my series of profiles of artists featured in EAST END VERNACULAR, Artists who painted London’s East End streets in the 20th century to be published by Spitalfields Life Books in October, I present the apocalyptic paintings of Cyril Mann. Click here to learn how you can support the publication of EAST END VERNACULAR

Tubby Isaac’s Jellied Eel Stall, Petticoat Lane, c. 1950

After serving as a Gunner in the Royal Artillery in World War II, Cyril Mann returned to live in a tiny flat in Paul St with his wife Mary and small daughter Sylvia in 1946. Close to where the Barbican stands today, this area at the boundary of the City of London had suffered drastic bomb damage and much of it remained a wasteland for decades. Roving around these desolate streets as far east as Spitalfields, Cyril Mann discovered the subject matter for a body of works which became the focus of a major exhibition at the Wildenstein Gallery in 1948.

Losing his hair in his thirties, Cyril Mann had the look of a man older than his years. Through the Depression he had been unemployed and close to starvation, yet thanks to a trust fund set up by Erica Marx he entered the Royal Academy Schools at twenty years old in 1931. For one so young, he had already seen a great deal of life. At twelve, he had been the youngest boy ever to win a scholarship to Nottingham College of Art, before leaving at fifteen to be a missionary in Canada. Quickly abandoning this ambition, he became a logger, a miner and a printer, until returning to London to renew his pursuit of a career as an artist. Ever restless, he moved to Paris after three years at the Royal Academy and there he met his first wife Mary Jervis Read.

Forced to leave his wife and baby when he was called up in 194o, Cyril Mann did not paint at all for the duration of the war. Back in London and battling ill-health, he set out to make up for lost time. The fragmented urban landscape of bombsites that was familiar to Londoners was new to him and, turning his gaze directly into the sun, he sought to paint it transfigured by light. Channelling his turbulent emotion into these works, Cyril Mann strove to discover an equilibrium in the disparate broken elements he saw before him, and many of these paintings are almost monochromatic, as if the light is dissolving the forms into a mirage.

During these years, Cyril Mann’s life underwent dramatic change. He obtained a teaching job at the Central School of Art in 1947 and exhibited at the prestigious Wildenstein Galery, showing his new works in 1948. Yet at the same time, his marriage broke down and he found himself alone, painting in the tiny flat in Paul St. Whilst critically acclaimed, his exhibition was a commercial failure because, in post-war London, nobody wanted to see images of bombsites and consequently these important works became forgotten.

Yet, through his struggle, Cyril Mann’s work as an artist had acquired a new momentum and, after 1950, a bold use of colour returned to his painting. In 1956, he was offered a flat in the newly-built modernist Bevin Court built by Tecton in Islington, where today a plaque commemorates him. In 1964, he moved east to Leyton and then Walthamstow,where he died in 1980.

At a time when all other artists turned away from painting the London streets, Cyril Mann made it his subject. While these pictures may not have suited the taste of the post-war capital, they comprise a unique body of work that witnesses the spirit and topography of these threadbare years. As his second wife, Renske who met Cyril Mann in 1959, assured me, “I believe he is the most significant London painter of the nineteen-forties, post-war.”

Cyril Mann preparing for his exhibition at Wildenstein Gallery in 1948

St Paul’s from Moor Lane, 1948

Cyril in his crowded flat in Paul St, c. 1950

Christ Church Spitalfields seen across bombsites from Scrutton St

Christ Church Spitalfields seen over bombsites from Redchurch St

Bomb site in Paul St with cat, c. 1950

Christ Church Spitalfields seen from Shoreditch

Bomb sites around Paul St, c. 1950

Christ Church Spitalfields from Worship St, c. 1948

Streetscape with red pillar box

East End shop

Trolley bus in Finsbury Sq, c. 1949

Finsbury Sq, c. 1949

Finsbury Sq, c. 1949

Red lamp post, Old St

Bombsite at Old St

Cock & Magpie, Wilson St, Shoreditch

St Michael, Shoreditch, c. 1948

St Michael and St Leonard’s Shoreditch from Leonard St, c. 1950

Angel Islington from City Rd, 1950

St James Church, Pentonville Rd, Islington, 1950

Cyril Mann (1911-1980)

Images copyright © Estate of Cyril Mann

Paintings by Cyril Mann can be seen at Piano Nobile Gallery

Phil Maxwell & Hazuan Hashim’s East End Films

June 15, 2017
by the gentle author

In celebration of Phil Maxwell & Hazuan Hashim’s AUSTERITY FIGHT which premieres at Rich Mix in the Bethnal Green Rd tomorrow, Friday 16th June as part of EAST END FILM FESTIVAL 2017, I am offering this retrospective of their films. Click here to book for Austerity Fight.


Sandra, 2008


Les, 2010


Olive, 2010


From Cable St to Brick Lane, 2012


East End Lives, 2009


East End Lives 2, 2010


East End Lives, 3 2010


The Photographer, 2016

Phil Maxwell signs copies of BRICK LANE at the launch in 2014 (Photograph by Simon Mooney)

You may also like to look at Phil Maxwell’s photography

Phil Maxwell in Hanbury St

Phil Maxwell in Bethnal Green Rd

Phil Maxwell in Vallance Rd

Phil Maxwell in Sclater St

Phil Maxwell’s Brick Lane

Phil Maxwell’s Old Ladies

Phil Maxwell’s Kids On The Street

Phil Maxwell’s East End Cyclists

Dan Jones, Artist

June 14, 2017
by the gentle author

In the third of my series of profiles of artists featured in EAST END VERNACULAR, Artists who painted London’s East End streets in the 20th century to be published by Spitalfields Life Books in October, I present the joyous vision of Dan Jones. Click here to learn how you can support the publication of EAST END VERNACULAR

Click to enlarge Dan Jones’ painting of Brick Lane 1978

In Dan Jones’ exuberant and playful painting, Brick Lane is a stage upon which an epic political drama is enacted. From this vantage point at the corner of the Truman Brewery, we see an Anti-Racist demonstration advancing up Brick Lane, while a bunch of skinheads stand at the junction with Hanbury St outside the fortuitously named “Skin Corner.” Meanwhile, a policeman stops a black boy on the opposite corner in front of a partially visible sign reading as “Sus,” in reference to the “Sus” law that permitted police to stop and search anyone on suspicion, a law repealed in 1981. And in the foreground of all this action, life goes on – two senior Bengali men embrace, as Dan and his family arrive to join the march, while bystanders of different creeds and colours chat together.

Dan Jones’ mother was the artist Pearl Binder, who came to live in Whitechapel in the nineteen twenties, and since 1967, Dan has lived down in Cable St where he brought up his family in an old terraced house next to the Crown & Dolphin. A prolific painter, Dan has creating many panoramic works – often of political scenes, such as you see here, as well as smaller pictures produced to illustrate two books of Nursery Rhymes, “Inky, Pinky, Ponky” and “Mother Goose comes to Cable St,” both published in the eighties. In recent years, he has undertaken a series of large playground murals portraying school children and the infinite variety of their games and rhymes.

Employed at first in youth work in the Cable St area, and subsequently involved in social work with immigrant families, Dan has been a popular figure in the East End for many years, and his canvases are crammed with affectionate portraits of hundreds of the people that he has come to know through his work and political campaigning. Today Dan works for Amnesty International, and continues to paint and to pursue his lifelong passion for collecting rhymes.

There is a highly personal vision of the East End manifest in Dan Jones’ paintings, which captivate me with the quality of their intricate detail and tender observation. When Dan showed me his work, he pointed out the names of all the people portrayed and told me the story behind every picture. Like the Pipe & Drum Band in Wapping painted by Dan in 1974 – to give but one example – which had been going since the eighteen eighties using the same sheet music. Their performances were a living fossil of the music of those days, until a row closed them down in 1980. “They were good – good flute players and renowned as boxers,” Dan informed me respectfully.

The End of Club Row, 1983. Club Row was closed after the government banned animal markets

Last Supper at St Botolph’s, Aldgate. Rev Malcolm Johnson preaches to the homeless at Easter 1982.

Pipe and Drum Band in Tent St, Wapping, 1974.

The Poplar Rates Rebellion of 1921

Parade on the the sixtieth anniversary of the Battle of Cable St, 1996

Live poultry sold in Hessel St.

Fishing at Shadwell Basin.

Tubby Isaacs in Goulston St, Petticoat Lane.

Palaseum Cinema in Commercial Rd

A Teddy Bear rampages outside the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

Funeral of a pig in Cable St, Dan Jones and his family come out of their house to watch.

Christ Church School, Brick Lane

Liverpool St Station

Watney Market

Paintings copyright © Dan Jones

Click here to preorder a copy of EAST END VERNACULAR for £25

Doreen Fletcher, Painter

June 13, 2017
by the gentle author

In the second of my series of profiles of artists featured in EAST END VERNACULAR, Artists who painted London’s East End streets in the 20th century to be published by Spitalfields Life Books in October, I present the remarkable paintings of Doreen Fletcher. Click here to learn how you can support the publication of EAST END VERNACULAR

Hairdresser, Ben Jonson Rd, 2001

This is a small selection of the paintings and drawings created by Doreen Fletcher in the East End between 1983 and 2003. “I was discouraged by the lack of interest,” admitted Doreen to me plainly, explaining why she gave up after twenty years of doing this work. Then, for a decade, all these pictures sat in Doreen’s attic until I persuaded her to take them out two years ago and let me photograph them for publication here on Spitalfields Life.

Doreen came to the East End in 1983 from West London. “My marriage broke up and I met someone new who lived in Clemence St, E14,” she revealed, “it was like another world in those days.” Yet Doreen immediately warmed to her new home and felt inspired to paint. “I loved the light, it seemed so sharp and clear in the East End, and it reminded me of the working class streets in the Midlands where I grew up,” she confided to me, “It disturbed me to see these shops and pubs closing and being boarded up, so I thought, ‘I must make a record of this,’ and it gave me a purpose.”

For twenty years, Doreen conscientiously sent off transparencies of her pictures to galleries, magazines and competitions, only to receive universal rejection. As a consequence, she forsook her art work entirely in 2003 and took a managerial job, and did no painting for the next ten years. But eventually, Doreen had enough of this too and has recently rediscovered her exceptional neglected talent in painting.

Many of Doreen’s pictures exist as the only record of places that have long gone and it is highly gratifying that she is finally receiving the recognition she deserves, not just for outstanding quality of her painting but also for her brave perseverance in pursuing her clear-eyed vision of the East End in spite of the lack of any interest or support.

Bartlett Park, 1990

Terminus Restaurant, 1984

Bus Stop, Mile End, 1983

Terrace in Commercial Rd under snow, 2003

Shops in Commercial Rd, 2003

Snow in Mile End Park, 1986

Laundrette, Ben Jonson Rd, 2001

The Lino Shop, 2001

Caird & Rayner Building, Commercial Rd, 2001

Rene’s Cafe, 1986

SS Robin, 1996

Benji’s Mile End, 1992

Railway Bridge, 1990

St Matthias Church, 1990

The Albion Pub, 1992

Turner’s Rd, 1998

The Condemned House, 1983

Leslie’s Grocer, Turner’s Rd, 1983 (Pencil Drawing)

Newsagents, Canning Town, 1991 (Coloured Crayon Drawing)

Bridge Wharf, 1984 (Pencil Drawing)

Pubali Cafe, Commercial Rd, 1990 (Coloured Crayon Drawing)

Ice Crean Van, 1990 (Coloured Crayon Drawing)

Images copyright © Doreen Fletcher

Click here to preorder a copy of EAST END VERNACULAR for £25