Anthony Gross RA

1905–1984

Anthony Gross was a painter, printmaker, illustrator and filmmaker. He was born in Dulwich, South London, to a suffragette playwright and a Hungarian map publisher. In 1913, at the age of 7, Gross began to experiment with drawings on stone with litho ink. After a disrupted school career, Gross went to London in 1923, to study at Slade School of Fine Art, where he was taught by the legendary Professor Henry Tonks. From here, he went to the Central School of Arts and Crafts, and exhibited in London at Abbey Gallery, in 1925. Then, moving to Paris in 1926 (after previous brief spells there), he went to study at the Académie Julian and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He learnt etching techniques,  alongside SW Hayter and Balthus, from Joseph Hecht, the Polish-born printmaker. He later shared a studio with Grosss in Montparnasse, but suffered as the art market collapsed. Gross left Paris during this period to attend the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid, and to make various trips across the continent and to North Africa.

 

In 1930, Gross settled once more in Paris, where he married the fashion illustrator Marcelle Marguerite (Daisy) Florenty. It was in Paris that he begun to make animated films, between 1931 and 1939, most notably, La Joie de Vivre (purchased by MoMA, New York). He began to depict factory life on the Left Bank, the movement that filtered through all of his work made visible in strong, controlled lines. These became the Sortie d’Usine and La Zone series. During this time, he drew for magazines, and designed the set and costumes for the avant-garde ballet, Chauve-Souris. In 1925, he met fellow printmaker Stanley William Hayter, with whom he became lifelong friends, both practising etching under Joseph Hecht. He also became a member of the printmaking society La Jeune Gravure Contemporaine, in 1933In 1936 he produced illustrations for Les Enfants Terribles, during a three–year hiatus in England, one of many books that he illustrated. 

 

The outbreak of war saw Gross initially comissioned by the War Artist's Advisory Committee, then made an Official War Artist in 1941, painting the ‘Convoy’ series in 1942, travelling to the Middle East, Asia, France, and Germany. The resultant pictures were exhibited in 1946 at the Tate and Jeu de Paume, Paris. He also began to work seriously with pen and ink.

 

After the war, Gross depicted the industrial North of England, as well as the commune of Saint-Matré, in the Lot, where he drew, then painted, rocks, stones, and juniper. He initially moved back to London full-time, then divided his time between there and Le Boulvé in the mid-1950s. In 1955, when he bought a house in Le Boulvé, he painted his first 'Yellow Valley' landscape. He commenced teaching, first at the Central School of Arts and Crafts (1948-54), then at the Slade (1954-71), where he taught printmaking. During this period, he was a member of the London Group (1948-71). In 1960, Gross was filmed for the BBC TV film 'Anthony Gross: The Artist Speaks' at Le Boulvé and the Slade School, London. In the following year, he was commissioned to complete three demonstration plates, 'Trees' for permanent display at the V&A Museum. Gross joined the Engraving Faculty of the British School at Rome in 1963 (he was invited back in 1971 as their guest). This was followed by a period as a Visiting Professor at Minneapolis School of Art, Minnesota (1965-66). In 1971 and 1972, two TV programmes were made about Gross - 'A Printmaker's Workshop' and 'inter alia' as part of 'Artists in Wartime'. He continued to make work out of doors in France, both etching and painting. This culminated in various exhibitions, then, in 1980, in a limited edition book The Very Rich Hours of Le Boulvé, written and illustrated by himself.

 

In 1965 he became the first President of the Printmakers Council, in 1971 an Honorary Member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, and in 1980, a Senior Royal Academician. He received a CBE in 1982. He was granted many more accolades and was highly thought of and regarded, in part due to his polymath approach to creativity, as well as his prolific output. His work was vital and busy, playing with a density of line and different textures that he could achieve through printmaking processes. Although his work is stylised, it is almost more hyper-real than in any way abstract. His depictions are often of ordinary people—whom he satirises, but not unkindly—and of a dense, fecund nature. Gross died at Le Boulvé on 8th September 1984.

 

Anthony Gross' estate is represented by the Redfern Gallery.

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Anthony Gross RA

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