Simon Fenwick in The Guardian, August 8 2008
The artist Bartolomeu Cid dos Santos, who has died aged 76, first came to Britain in 1956 "as a way of escaping the oppressive cultural desert that was then-fascist Portugal, where, as someone once said, 'What was not allowed was forbidden,' ideas included." London offered an environment where speech was free, where his teachers at the Slade School of Art were not his enemies, and where he could express his radical beliefs without risking imprisonment. Much of the rest of Dos Santos's life and career were divided between London and Portugal, where he was considered one of the country's major artists.
He was immensely well-read, and his greatest work is the etched limestone panels he created for the murals in the atrium of the Lisbon underground station serving Portugal's National Library. The central section, covering 1,000 sq m, depicts an immense library containing the country's finest literature.
Dos Santos was born in Lisbon into a family of doctors and art collectors. His grandfather took the young Barto around the galleries and museums of western Europe. Initially schooled in Strasbourg, from 1950 to 1956, Dos Santos studied at the Escola de Belas-Artes in Lisbon, where there was no library and discussion was discouraged. A book, Charme de Londres, with images by the Swiss photographer Isis, inspired him to move there. On the basis of a few watercolours and drawings, he was accepted at the Slade. His interview was conducted by Sir William Coldstream who, years later, said to him, "I didn't understand a word you were saying when I interviewed you," to which Dos Santos replied, "Neither did I understand your English."
At the Slade neither of the two dominant styles of painting - one derived from David Bomberg, the other from the more cerebral Euston Road school - was sympathetic to his own ideas. However, his tutor, William Townsend, introduced him to the etcher Anthony Gross, who had studied in Paris and Madrid, had an understanding of European culture, and introduced Dos Santos to Goya's prints. The blackness - both literal and figurative - of Goya's etchings profoundly affected Dos Santos, who realised that the photographs of London by Isis which had initially excited him were not totally alien to Goya's vision. London, although still ravaged by wartime bombing, fascinated him, but he remained captivated by Lisbon, "a Latin city of Mediterranean character ... which made me look introspectively into a more private, metaphysical world dominated by light, shadows and silences. These two parallel and apparently contradictory approaches have since then pervaded all my work."
Primarily, Dos Santos was a printmaker, employing a combination of etching and aquatint (a process that he taught to fellow Portuguese artist Paula Rego). During the 1960s, when Portugal was in the midst of its colonial wars, he created a series of prints of bishops - petrified cadavers surveying putrefying ruins of its decaying empire. In the context of the time it was considered dangerously subversive. Later prints were full of rats triumphant in a world grown fat on its own pestilence.
Between 1961 and 1996 Dos Santos taught printmaking at the Slade, eventually being elected a fellow of University College London and in 1996 emeritus professor in fine art of the University of London. A man of great charm, he was revered as a teacher and his MA course at the Slade attracted an international body of students. He believed that they should have as broad an education as possible - a trip to the British Museum was a vital part of their training. He held a number of visiting professorships abroad, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers in 1990.
Dos Santos held 84 one-man shows in Europe, the far east and the Americas. Examples of his work can be found all over the world including the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert, Cambridge, the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon. His murals include a chapel at São Pedro de Muel in Portugal and railway stations at Reboleira and Pragal, near Lisbon. Dos Santos also conceived and decorated the commemorative monument to Portugal's 1974 revolution in Grãndola.
Dos Santos married twice: firstly to Susan Plant, by whom he had three daughters, and secondly to Fernanda Paixão, all of whom survive him. An extrovert and optimist, Barto was a big man who, each year, on August 24 - a day in Portugal when traditionally the devil is said to walk abroad - held a birthday party in Sintra, where he had his Portuguese home. At its centre was a vast refectory table he had shipped out from University College for his friends to sit around, eat, drink and talk.
Bartolomeu Cid dos Santos, artist and teacher, born August 24 1931; died May 21 2008