Born in 1898 in East Anglia, England, Sybil Andrews was first introduced to art through John Hassal’s correspondence course while she was an oxyacetylene welder in Bristol during WWI. Following the war she returned to her hometown of Bury St. Edmunds in Sussex where she met architect and artist, Cyril Power. Together, they moved to London where Power became a lecturer at the newly established Grosvenor School of Art and Andrews took a position as a school secretary.
Andrews’ art education continued with her move in 1922 to London where she attended Heatherly’s School of Art, studying under Henri G. Massey. One year later, she left Heatherley’s to study independently with Polish sculptor Henri Glicenstein. It was here that she witnessed a lecture demonstration by William Kermode on black and white woodblock printing. Her interest in relief printing continued through her work, where Claude Flight was a lecturer in the technique of lino cutting. Andrews attended many of his classes and became one of his most successful and well-known pupils, demonstrating a superior technical ability.
Andrews was quick to develop the formal language encouraged by Flight and her prints are obviously influenced by Cubism, Futurism and Vorticism, however, she rejected many of Flight’s ideals. He saw the linocuts as a new form of democratic art, colorful prints that could be produced cheaply and then sold for the price of a theater ticket in order to introduce art to a wide selection of homes. Sybil Andrews took partial heed of Flight’s encouragement to his pupils to capture the dynamism of the modern world that was evolving around them. Prints such as the 1929 “Straphangers” and “Rush Hour” of 1930, depict the London Underground as the symbol for the new machine age. However, Andrews had a greater interest in capturing the rhythm of the human figure, engaged in either work or sport and many of her linocuts reflect this fascination. “The Winch” of 1930, “Sledgehammers” of 1933 and “The Mowers” of 1937 all show men engaged in some form of physical activity, either straining to turn the handle of a winch, working as blacksmiths or cutting grass. These three prints also demonstrate one of Andrews’ key compositional techniques; the use of a single focal point on which the energy of the print is centered. Sport was another favorite subject for the artist and her work covered many different activities including horse racing (“Steeplechasing”, 1930; “Water Jump”, 1931; and “Racing”, 1934), rowing (“Bringing in the Boat”, 1933), motorbike racing (“Speedway), 1934) and football (“Football”, 1937). This interest in sporting activities possibly helped Andrews to secure a commission from the London Passenger Transport Board between 1929 and 1937. During these eight years she worked jointly with Cyril Power under the pseudonym “Andrew Power” to produce seven posters for various sporting events including the tennis at Wimbledon, the racing at Epsom and cricket at Lords and the Oval. The posters aimed to show passengers how easily accessible the venues were by public transport. The posters were the only formal collaboration between the two artists who shared a studio at 2 Brook Green, near the River Thames in Hammersmith, despite the obvious influences they had on each other’s work. Andrews would later acknowledge her debt to Power and the formal instruction on draughtsmanship that he provided. The working relationship did not last long, however, and they both left London in the late 1930s, Power to return to his family and Andrews to marry. She emigrated with her husband to the remote logging town of Campbell River on Vancouver Island in 1947 and while she continued producing linocuts until her death in 1992, they no longer captured the spirit and dynamism of those she produced while at the Grosvenor School.