Bartolomeu dos Santos 1931-2008
12 June 2008
By Rebecca Attwood
An acclaimed Portuguese artist who taught printmaking at the Slade School of Fine Art for 35 years has died, aged 76.
Bartolomeu dos Santos, known as Barto, started at the school as a student in the 1950s following his undergraduate studies in Portugal and stayed on until his retirement in 1996.
As head of printmaking at the Slade in the 1960s, he was instrumental in the expansion of printmaking to postgraduate level at the school, part of University College London. He was also president of the Friends of the Strang Print Room, UCL's art collection, and a generous benefactor through gifts of artists' books and prints.
He divided his time between London and Portugal, and his many works included large-scale tile pieces for the Entrecampos metro station in Lisbon, a metro station in Tokyo and for the National Museum in Macau.
"He was a big personality - very gregarious - and very generous," said Slade director John Aiken. "He inspired loyalty from his students and involved them in things once they'd left. He worked with students on some of his big projects, and made sure they had opportunities to exhibit."
Professor dos Santos combined his hands-on approach to teaching with an impressive cultural knowledge. "He had a huge knowledge of literature and he was very interested in themes that reflected the history of Portugal - for example, navigation and its history as seen through the work of poets.
"There was a strong political content to his work, which had to be slightly 'underground' during the dictatorship in Portugal, and then, subsequently, the revolution. In recent years that political content has come up in a very overt way - it has been very much about the Iraq conflict and commenting on American politics. He felt very strongly about that and produced a whole body of new work."
This saw Professor dos Santos return to paintings, sometimes featuring graffiti-like messages, and sculpture. Professor Aiken said: "He didn't settle into old age in a kind of comfortable way. He kept wanting to make a lot of noise and he succeeded."
He was a guest artist at many art schools around the world, and held visiting professorships that included posts at the University of Madison and the National College of Art in Pakistan. His works are held in collections including the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
A cultural institute is being established in Tavira in Portugal, where he had his studio, to house his collection of prints and drawings.
Professor dos Santos died on 21 May from cancer, and is survived by his wife Fernanda, his three daughters by his first wife Susan, and his two stepsons.