Obituary for Dr Anthony Dyson (1931- 2023)

Anthony (Tony) Dyson: Artist, master printer, art historian, teacher, has died at the age of ninety one.

The extraordinary range of skills and depth of knowledge that Tony acquired, assimilated, applied and shared over a long and creative life spanned different disciplines.He made distinctive contributions to both theory and practice in the fields of art and education. He was equally at home pursuing art historical research in a library archive and crafting elegant prose for academic purposes as he was in his studio with ink on his hands or teaching basic printmaking techniques to students. Each strand of his professional life reflected his commitment to a fundamental guiding principle: how you do anything is how you do everything.

After studying printmaking at Blackburn School of Art Tony trained as a teacher at Leeds College of Art. He taught art in schools and later in Colleges of Education in London whilst studying part time for a degree in Art History at Birkbeck College followed by a PhD at the Courtauld Institute. His last academic post was as a senior lecturer at the Institute of Education, London University ( now UCL ) where in the mid 1970s he established an MA course in Art Education and supervised doctoral students. The teaching of art history was the focus of his research and writing through which he influenced the development of the critical, historical contextual studies dimension of the art and design curriculum for schools.

In 1987 he established The Black Star Press in Teddington and began the next phase of his career ,as a master printer. He continued to enjoy his role as a visiting lecturer at the Institute and still found time to make his own prints and publish widely about printmaking and its history. During this period he was much sought after as an external examiner for doctoral theses.He also served as Vice President of the prestigious Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.

Tony Dyson was a modest, principled and always courteous man. He wore his scholarship and practical skills lightly and shared them generously. He supervised my MA dissertation and taught me how to construct an academic argument. Later, when we became colleagues in the Art and Design Department at the Institute Tony was an inspiring mentor. Following his retirement from academia we kept in touch. I valued his friendship and wisdom and enjoyed his company when, periodically ,we met for lunch in Bloomsbury. He retained a keen interest in the state of art and design education, exhibitions, and news of former colleagues and students. We both acknowledged making prints and paintings doesn’t become easier with increasing age but agreed “retirement” wasn’t an acceptable option.I continued to admire his intellectual curiosity, undimmed critical eye and disciplined approach to work. After lunch, invariably Tony would head off to Cornelisson to purchase printmaking materials ,very often en route to deliver a print (in its distinctive Dyson constructed kraft paper package) to the British Museum or some other prestigious institution.

In his mid seventies he reduced his commitments as a master printer to devote more time to making his own prints. The outcome was fruitful. His work became looser, more expressive, without compromising precision, the hallmark of his draughtsmanship. In 2006 and 2007 he had much celebrated solo exhibitions of prints and drawings in France, near his house in the Loire Valley ,where he, Norma and their extended family enjoyed many summers.

Throughout his long life Tony Dyson remained equally committed to art and education.He will be widely remembered as a maker of exquisite etchings and meticulous drawings and by successive generations of students, including me,as an inspirational teacher.

For his support and friendship over forty five years I shall remember Tony with fondness and gratitude.


Roy Prentice