Cyril Power already had a successful career to his credit when he decided to become an art student in 1922 at the age of fifty. A practicing architect, Power had written a multivolume book, English Medieval Architecture, which he illustrated himself, and had taught architecture at colleges and universities in London. Several years after finishing his military service in World War I, Power left his family and decamped for London, where he enrolled in art school with Sybil Andrews, a younger artist who became his collaborator for nearly twenty years.
In 1925 Power was a member of the founding faculty of the Grosvenor School of Art, a liberal institution that encouraged students to think for themselves. It was there that he met Claude Flight, Britain's most devoted proponent of the linoleum cut technique, and began to study under him. He eventually completed forty-six linoleum cuts and also made numerous drypoints and monotypes, as well as works in oil, watercolor, and pastel. Like many of his contemporaries, Power was fascinated by the new machine age in which he lived, surrounded by fast cars, locomotives, and other new technologies. These were often the motifs featured in his work, as he attempted to depict the speed and dynamism of the modern experience.
Speed Trial was inspired by Bluebird, the racecar that broke the land-speed record seven times between 1927 and 1935 with speeds ranging from 174 to 301 miles per hour. Via a loose series of repetitive, rhythmic curves, Power conjures up a sense of the rushing wind created as the aerodynamic car speeds past the viewer. He printed a variety of experimental trial proofs, such as this one in a single color, before finalizing the composition, adding a background color and creating a standardized edition.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Sarah Suzuki, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 75.