EDNA MANN 1926 - 1985: Bomberg, Borough and beyond

With this group of 14 paintings from the 1950s and 1960s we trace Edna Mann’s development from pupil of David Bomberg, and founder of the Borough Group, to an independent artist with her own unique vision.


Having been cast out by Bomberg from his inner circle, for the apparent crime of getting pregnant and becoming a mother, Edna was able to experiment more freely with abstraction than her former associates. In this rare group of paintings sourced from her son’s attic one can see the variety of influences that followed after Borough.


Paintings from this online exhibition can be viewed at 16 Savile Row, and a selection will be on view at the Masterpiece Fair from 29th June – 6th July.

Born in East London in 1926, Mann studied art at the South-East Essex Technical College and School of Art. It was here that she met fellow artists David Bomberg - who was teaching - and Dorothy Mead. Mann and Mead were won over by Bomberg and followed him to the City Literary Institute and later the Borough Polytechnic. Along the way they met Cliff Holden, Miles Richmond, Frank Auerbach, Leslie Marr and Lilian Holt. United by their appreciation for Bomberg's painting, they formed the Borough Group, exhibiting their work in the late 1940s at the Archer, Arcade and Bookworm galleries. 


With Bomberg involved, progress was not always smooth. Tension over leadership and direction was an almost constant struggle. Nonetheless, the group continued to exhibit both in England and further afield. Mann was involved until she became pregnant and fell victim to Bomberg's peculiar misogyny, which theorised that motherhood and the life of a serious artist were mutually exclusive. Thus, she was coerced into resigning and - despite her obvious talent - ostracised by the group.


Although Mann continued to paint throughout her life – and was included in The Harlow Arts Festival in 1965, the same year in which she had a solo show at the Drian Gallery and a play (written with Frank Hitchcock) broadcast by the BBC – she only very occasionally exhibited her work. It is therefore extremely rare that one has the opportunity to see her paintings on public display, although she is well-represented in the Borough Road Gallery within the Sarah Rose Collection, who started her Bomberg collection in 1981.