Raymond Watkinson, who died aged 89, was also a designer, illustrator, typographer, art editor, critic, exhibition curator and, most especially, from 1937, an art teacher. He was born on December 17th 1913 in Flixton, Manchester, into a large working class family of Methodist adherence. Whilst becoming an atheist and Communist in his youth, he never forgot the scriptures!
After Stretford Grammar School studied engraving at the Manchester Regional School of Art he embarked on his long career as an art teacher. Along with Ern Brooks and Barbara Niven, he was involved in workers’ theatre and the AIA. He was a member of the Communist Party’s Hogarth Society. During the war, he was a technical illustrator at Manchester’s Avro aircraft factory.
He taught in Manchester, Poole, Watford, Woolwich, City of London Poly, Brighton and the London School of Printing, where he was senior lecturer in the history of art. His last full-time post, in the 1970s, was, briefly, as deputy dean of Goldsmiths College’s school of art. He was sacked from his post at Watford, due to Communist Party and trade union activities. Watkinson was a lecturer at the Communist Party School of Art and a key influence on students during the Guildford and Hornsey sit ins of 1968.
An socialist realist, he was an expert on the Pre-Raphaelite movement and William Morris, he published a number of books on both, as well as on William Hogarth, Thomas Bewick, Ford Maddox Brown. However fond he was of lesser known artists from the north, Morris – he fondly called him "my friend" – was his greatest hero, and he seemed to resemble the man himself, consciously or otherwise. He was a past president of the William Morris Society and editor of its journal. He was also a Trustee of the William Morris Gallery and chair of the Marx Memorial Library. Watkinson supported the re-establishment of the CPB, described himself as a Communist to the end of his life, and died on January 13th 2003.
Sources: Morning Star 24th January 2003; Guardian 6th February 2003
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