Alan Bardsley Woods, author and lecturer in History of Art, School of Fine Art, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee; born June 21, 1956, died February 24, 2000

ALAN WOODS, who has died suddenly after a short illness at the age of 43, was an art historian in the School of Fine Art at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee. Alan graduated from Cambridge, University and took up a post in Dundee in 1989. After his arrival in Scotland, Alan quickly established himself as a notable writer on visual art, with a subtle and flexible command of language. Throughout the1990s he was writing regularly in the Cambridge Quarterly on artists including Reynolds, Degas, Lowry, Bacon, Balthus, Hockney, Kitaj, and Paula Rego.

He wrote exhibition catalogues for Scottish galleries including the CCA, the Fruitmarket, and Peacock Printmakers, and for many artists who were, invariably, his friends, among them Will Maclean, Ian Howard, and Jim Pattison. He had a particular connection with The Herald, for a number of years contributing reviews and occasionally deputising for Clare Henry.

Alan had a remarkable, idiosyncratic range of knowledge and the quickest humour, which was the delight of his friends. His enthusiasm encompassed art history and theory, contemporary art, photography and cinema, literature, poetry (which he wrote), and all the media of popular culture, to which he brought the same attentive eye, responsive feeling. and questioning mind. ''Art historian'' is no description for a man who cared nothing for such classifications (he liked to say that having found an art school he had ''gone native'') and whose many interests, for all the richness of his thought, he carried lightly.

There was an easy movement between all the areas of his interest, and his enjoyment of sport, too, particularly cricket and football, was inseparable from the rest. Alan also placed great importance on his work as an artist, exhibiting collages and text-based works in one-man and group shows from the early 1980s until his death. His range of sympathies and freedom of mind fitted him superbly for art school teaching and was the source of his greatest strength as a teacher, encouraging and inspiring students in the toils of their own research. In his lectures (delivered without notes in a conversational, digressive style which somehow never lost the point) he introduced students to visual art from the Renaissance to the present day, treating the Old Masters as being in every way as meaningful and relevant today as contemporary artists, rather than as marmoreal ancestors.

Alan was engaged by all visual media but his best writing grew out of his love of painting, photography, and film. He was able to bring them together, along with a fascination with the representation of time in visual art (a constant from his student days) in Being Naked Playing Dead, his groundbreaking 1996 study of the work of Peter Greenaway, which was the most sustained display of Alan's critical originality, admired by Greenaway himself, and the book on which his reputation will, now, largely rest. He went on to co-curate an exhibition of Greenaway's paintings which was shown in the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh in 1998. In 1994 Alan co-founded and subsequently edited the interview-based journal Transcript which brought him into contact with an international company of artists, film-makers and writers, from Ian Hamilton Finlay and Joel-Peter Witkin to John Watters and Wes Craven.

After bringing together artists whom he thought suitable he applied a deliberately light editorial hand, to preserve the informal, open quality of the interviews and leave reader free to discover echoes and counterpoints for themselves without intrusive direction. Only a matter of days before he was taken ill, Alan had completed a book on Ralph Rumney, founding member of the Situationist International and a close friend. To be published next year, it will join the Greenaway book as Alan's lasting legacy.

He was also deeply involved with the publishing programme of the new Visual Research Centre in Dundee (including a recent project with Fiona Banner) and was looking forward to a new collaboration with Greenaway and another with Ian Breakwell. He died with many other projects in mind, a book on Howard Hodgkin and another (showing again the range of his interests) on the lyrics of Bob Dylan among them. Alan had only begun to fulfil the promise of his talents and the best was yet to come. But it was people who mattered most to him. He had no immediate family but enjoyed the largest circle of friends. His loss, as a teacher, writer, and scholar cut off before his time is great, but to his friends he will be missed most as a man: generous and warm, irrepressibly witty, always the best of company, with a great gift for friendship.

Euan McArthur