Dickey (his full name was Edward Montgomery O'Rorke Dickey) was born in Belfast on 1 July 1894, the son of Edward O'Rorke Dickey. He later married Eunice Emmeline Howard; they had one son, Daniel. He was educated at Wellington College and Trinity College, Cambridge. He studied painting under Harold Gilman at the Westminster School of Art.
He was art master at Oundle School and then became professor of fine art and director of King Edward VII School of Art, Armstrong College, Durham University from 1926 to 1931. He was then staff inspector of art from 1931 to 1957 for the Ministry of Education.
At the beginning of the Second World War he was seconded from the Ministry of Information and, from 1939 to 1942, was secretary of the War Artists' Advisory Committee. He was a full member of the committee from 1942 to 1945. During this period he established a close relationship with Eric Ravilious.
His wood engravings and oil paintings
Dickey was a founder member of the Society of Wood Engravers in 1920, and exhibited with them from 1920 to 1924. He was at his most active in the early 1920s and virtually all his engravings date from this period.
In 1922 he contributed a wood engraving to Contemporary English Woodcuts, an anthology of wood engravings produced by Thomas Balston, a director at Duckworth and an enthusiast for the new style of wood engravings. Campbell Dodgson, Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, wrote 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 was a limited edition of 550 copies, as was the only book that he illustrated with wood engravings, Workers by the Irish writer Richard Rowley, published by Balston at Duckworth in 1923.
Dickey devoted more time to working in oils. He was one of the most experimental painters in Ireland technically and stylistically. He painted extensively on the continent, and showed at the Royal Academy and the New English Art Club. He was elected to the London Group in 1920. He had 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.
An overview of Dickey's work
Dickey's lasting legacy, rather than his wood engravings and oils, is his distinguished contribution to arts administration and art education.
- Joanna Selborne, ‘The Society of Wood Engravers: the early years’ in Craft History 1 (1988), published by Combined Arts.
- Dickey's genealogy
- Brian Foss, War Paint: Art, War, State and Identity in Britain, 1939 to 1945 (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2007), ISBN 978-0300108903.
- Anne Ullman, Ravilious at War (Upper Denby, Fleece Press, 2002), ISBN 0-948375-70-1.
- The London Gazette recording Dickey's CBE
- Joanna Selborne, The Wood Engraving Revival in Britain 1900-1930 (A selling exhibition at Wolseley Fine Arts, 2000).
- Campbell Dodgson, Contemporary English Woodcuts (London, Duckworth, 1922).
- Dickey's listing in the London Group's records Archived 2012-04-28 at the Wayback Machine.
- Paintings of the Sabine Mountains and other subjects by E. M. O'R. Dickey
- Painting(s) by or after E.M.O'R. Dickey, Art UK
- Examples of Dickey's oil paintings