Uglow is attentive to the tensions of Andrews and Power’s curious partnership. She animates their twenty years together through contrasts: courage and caution, nostalgia and newness, London and the countryside ... Uglow’s account itself is diligently chronological and thorough. For a book about artists who insisted on stripping away 'unnecessary' details, it makes a resolutely contrary case for minding them ... In lingering with Andrews and Power after what seem to have been the most remarkable and terrifying years of their lives, Uglow insists on how the aftermath can make us see the inflection point differently. Like the linocut artists, she is trying to catch a larger sense of movement.
How this art came to be, and how it came to be forgotten, is one part of the story Uglow tells. The other part concerns a relationship that stubbornly refuses discovery ... Uglow is too principled a biographer to force an interpretation ... She gives us the patterns of daily life, intricate and unexpected, along with occasional forceful ruptures, but without the 'swelling rotundity' of corporeal existence.
Uglow teases out some interesting themes ... I found this a subtle and nuanced account. The trouble with artist biographies however, is that unless you’re really lucky, the subjects spend most of their time in the quiet, blameless and rather private business of making art – drawing, cutting, colouring prints – rather than conducting wild affairs, saying outrageous things, or fighting. In this, Uglow has not been lucky. Power and Andrews were talented artists who made the grand experiment of 'going for it' in the early 1920s. But they were not, beyond that, particularly extraordinary people – mostly they just ploughed on with their art.
[A] warm and inclusive double biography ... Jenny Uglow’s rich evocation of the past creates a lavish detailed background and illuminates the complex circumstances in which art is made. Her personal approach takes in the emotional lives of her subjects and their family connections. It also brings out the curious features of their joint biography.
Outstanding ... Sybil & Cyril, then, brings a remarkable relationship to life, along with the remarkable era in which it blossomed. In Uglow’s deft and practised hands...Britain’s interwar years feel near transcendent: a hectic, humming, scintillating swirl filled with excitement and unease, experiment and anarchy, machines, speed, colour and people ... Uglow conveys beautifully how lino’s pliable surface produced an exceptionally expressive stroke; one that implied the hurtle and whoosh, the heaving scramble and the sheer disorientating strangeness of the age like nothing else ... Throughout, I was struck by the intensely visual prose, which makes the reader feel like they are flicking through a colourful sketchbook ... Even though the book is ostensibly about art, its characters come charmingly to life in their love of music.