Edward Montgomery O’Rorke Dickey is born in Belfast on July 1, 1894, the son of Edward O’Rorke Dickey. He later marries Eunice Emmeline Howard and they have one son, Daniel. He is educated at Wellington College and Trinity College, Cambridge. He studies painting under Harold Gilman at the Westminster School of Art.
Dickey is art master at Oundle School in Oundle, Northamptonshire, England, and then becomes professor of fine art and director of King Edward VII School of Art, Armstrong College, Durham University from 1926 to 1931. He is then staff inspector of art from 1931 to 1957 for the Ministry of Education.
At the beginning of World War II Dickey is seconded from the Ministry of Information and, from 1939 to 1942, is secretary of the War Artists’ Advisory Committee. He is a full member of the committee from 1942 to 1945. During this period he establishes a close relationship with Eric Ravilious. He is appointed a CBE in 1952.
Dickey is a founder member of the Society of Wood Engravers in 1920, and exhibits with them from 1920 to 1924. He is at his most active in the early 1920s and virtually all his engravings date from this period.
In 1922 Dickey contributes a wood engraving to Contemporary English Woodcuts, an anthology of wood engravings produced by Thomas Balston, a director at Gerald Duckworth and Company and an enthusiast for the new style of wood engravings. Campbell Dodgson, Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, writes about him in his introduction to the book Mr. Hagreen and Mr. Dickey are among the engravers who rely very much upon the effective use of white lines and spaces. This is a limited edition of 550 copies, as is the only book that he illustrates with wood engravings, Workers by the Irish writer Richard Rowley, published by Balston at Duckworth in 1923.
Dickey devotes more time to working in oils. He is one of the most experimental painters in Ireland technically and stylistically. He paints extensively on the continent, and shows at the Royal Academy of Arts and the New English Art Club. He is elected to the London Group in 1920. He has several one-man exhibitions, at the Leicester Galleries in 1923, at the Manchester City Art Gallery in 1924, and the Beaux Arts Gallery in 1935.
There are a number of examples of Dickey’s oil paintings in public collections.
Dickey’s lasting legacy, rather than his wood engravings and oils, is his distinguished contribution to arts administration and art education.
(Pictured: “Kentish Town Railway Station” by Edward Montgomery O’Rorke Dickey, oil on canvas, 1919, Hollytrees Museum, United Kingdom)