Norman Sayle was the most celebrated Manx artist of recent times.
Born in Douglas in 1926, he studied graphic design at the School of Art at Goldsmith’s College, University of London from 1948 to 1952. After a short time spent teaching in Kent, he returned to the Isle of Man in 1954 to take up a position as assistant lecturer at the then School of Technology, Arts and Crafts in Douglas. By the time he retired in 1989, the school was known as the Isle of Man College, and he had served as both its Head of Art and Development Officer. He also sat on both the Isle of Man Arts Society and the Island’s Art Council.
Retirement gave Sayle the opportunity to focus on his art, and it was in this period that he started to exhibit outside the Island. In 1993, he won the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours medal, and the following year he was elected a Member of the Institute. He was placed four times in the Singer and Friedlander/Sunday Times Watercolour competition, and in 1997 he won the first prize. The same year he was also a winner at the Discerning Eye Exhibition.
Sayle’s love of the Island is reflected in his work. Although he also worked in oil and acrylic, watercolour was his favoured medium. He described his paintings as an homage to the Manx landscape: ‘My aim is to express my devotion to the Manx countryside – its grey churches, stone circles, slate walls – by reconciling three components: the subject matter, the structure and the medium. In the end I want it to look as if the watercolour was speaking of itself’.
In 2007, in recognition of his significant contribution to Manx life, Sayle became the first recipient of the Tynwald Honour.