DYSON, William Henry (1880-1938)


DYSON, William Henry (1880-1938)
always known as Will Dyson
artist
was born at Alfredton, near Ballarat, in September 1880, the son of George Dyson, a mining engineer, and brother of Edward Dyson (q.v.). He was educated at state schools at Ballarat and South Melbourne. An elder brother, Ambrose Dyson, a vigorous and able popular illustrator, was born about 1876 and died on 3 June 1913. Will followed in his brother's steps, before he was 21 one of his drawings was accepted by the Bulletin, and he then obtained an appointment on the Adelaide Critic as a black and white artist. He returned to Melbourne in 1902, and did a good deal of work for the Bulletin, Melbourne Punch, and other papers. In 1906 Fact'ry 'Ands by his brother Edward Dyson (q.v.) was published with over 50 illustrations by him. These are curiously restless and exaggerated, but the best of his work at this period showed that an artist of great originality was gradually finding himself. Dyson was not a natural draughtsman like Phil May (q.v.), for in his early book illustrations he too often failed to realize the body under the clothes. However, a vein of genuine satire kept showing itself, and it was early realized that there was a mind behind the work. It was no doubt part of the honesty of the artist that when he held a show of his drawings in 1909 they were carefully graded, and some of the least good were priced as low as ten shillings and sixpence.
In 1910 Dyson was married to Ruby Lindsay, a member of the well-known family of artists. They then went to London where Dyson was employed on the Weekly Despatch. He also drew some coloured cartoons for Vanity Fair signed "Emu", and later began to contribute to the labour paper the Daily Herald. His cartoons became famous and had much influence in establishing the paper. In 1914 he published Cartoons, a selection from his work in its pages. In January 1915 appeared Kultur Cartoons, and later in the year he became an Australian official artist at the front. He was not concerned about finding safe vantage points and was twice wounded in 1917. Exhibitions of his war cartoons were held in London, and in November 1918 he published Australia at War, which contains some of his finest drawings. In March 1919, to his great grief, his wife died. In the following year he published a selection of her work The Drawings of Ruby Lind accompanied by a little volume Poems in Memory of a Wife (dated 1919). In 1925 he was given a large salary to return to Australia to work on the staff of the Melbourne Herald and Punch, and stayed for five years. He returned to London by way of New York, where he had a successful show of his dry-points, and he held a similar exhibition in London in December 1930 which attracted much attention. He resumed his connexion with the Daily Herald and contributed cartoons to it until his death. He had become interested in the Douglas Credit theory, and in 1933 published Artist Among the Bankers with 19 of his own illustrations. He died suddenly on 21 January 1938. A daughter survived him.
Dyson was tall and thin, a suggestion of scepticism and melancholy veiled his sensitive, modest, witty, humorous and kindly disposition. He was brought up in a mining district, knew something of the difficulties of labouring men, and no personal success could lessen his championship of the under-dog. Whatever he attempted he did well. He was a good public speaker, a writer of excellent prose, a charming conversationalist, and his little known Poems in Memory of a Wife belongs to the regions of true poetry. Taking up dry pointing late in life he quickly mastered the possibilities of his medium. His full genius was expressed in his cartoons, he became the most trenchant satirist of his day. The largest collection of his work is at Canberra, and he is also represented at the national galleries at Melbourne and Sydney and at the Victoria and Albert museum, London. His wife, known as "Ruby Lind", the daughter of Dr Lindsay of Creswick, was born in 1887. She went to Melbourne at about the age of 20, and earned a precarious living as an illustrator. She found after her marriage that the business of being a good wife and mother limited her opportunities as an artist, but the work she did succeed in doing has much grace and charm, and few illustrators have had a more sensitive line. She died on 12 March 1919. The moving introduction by her husband to The Drawings of Ruby Lind, and his Poems in Memory of a Wife, will suggest something of what her loss meant to him and to her friends.
The Herald, Melbourne, 4 June 1913, 10 April 1920, 22 January 1938; The Argus, Melbourne, 24 January 1938; The Bulletin, 2 February 1938; The Drawings of Ruby Lind; personal knowledge.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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