An Appreciation of Maurice Man (1921-1997)

Lets put Art Deco to one side for moment or two. A few years back I was browsing 20th Century art on ebay when I stumbled across a rather fetching 1960’s portrait MMphoto1of a young lady. Semi abstract, with use of heavy colours and angular application, I found it simply mesmerising. Several bids were placed, but I duly lost out. Feeling rather put out by this, I hit google on a mission to track down further works by the artist in question, one Maurice Man. At the time four were found to be available for sale by dealers worldwide; one in New York, one in London, and two in a tiny  gallery in Great Malvern, Worcestershire (a small town near the Western border of England). The thing is, and you couldn’t make this up, I just happen to live in Great Malvern. I swiftly applied my shoes and 10 minutes later was stood in font of the pair of portraits. Money was exchanged, and so began my love affair

Girl Reading (1966)
‘Girl Reading’ 1966

with the striking work of this greatly overlooked talent.

Research hasn’t yielded a great deal of information about his life and work. He was born in Northwest London in 1921. Studied at Willesden and St. Martin’s Schools of Art and in Paris at L’Académie de la Grande Chauiére. Primarily a figure and portrait painter, notably of women, his subjects included the actresses Joan Collins, Julie Andrews, Sylvia Syms and Natalie Wood. A magazine article from the mid-1960’s I unearthed, observed him at work, noting his foul temper and a tendency to destroy his work in fits of rage. His medium of choice was oil stick on board or canvas, with a thick coat of varnish to harden it.

Sleeping

I’m no art expert (far from it), but I would cautiously declare that the portraits I’ve

Quiet Nude (1967)
‘Nude Seated by a Window’ 1967

seen range from deeply evocative and sensual, to just plain amateur. Perhaps this inconsistency is one of the main reasons he never gained the recognition I believe he deserved.

The two volume, ‘Dictionary of British Artists Since 1945’ by David Buckman notes that Maurice moved to Hastings in the early 1970s. I can only assume that he took a step away from portrait work at this time, I’ve not managed to find evidence of any works dated post 1970, but that’s not to say none exist.

in 2015, 18 years on from his death, his work still only changes hands for tiny

Blue Nude (1970)
‘Blue Nude’ 1970

sums of money (I picked up one for £11 a year or two back), great for collectors like me, but rather depressing for Maurices’ legacy. Hopefully sooner or later someone of note will fall for his work give him a bit of long overdue publicity. Until then, I’ll just keep filling my walls!

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An Interesting post-script to this article is Kay Lipton, Maurices’ former wife getting in touch. I subsequently discovered, through her fairly racy biography ‘A Life of Art & Passion’, a great deal more about Maurice’s personality. Their relationship was a passionate, youthful & short lived affair in the early 1940’s. Kays’ honest, and sometimes brutal recollections show Maurice to be a fairly complicated and, at times, extremely unpleasant character, later diagnosed as bi-polar. They seperated long before he produced the above works, but it all adds to the mystique of this greatly overlooked artist.