Anthony Maxwell

Born: January 17, 1954;

Died: January 16, 2021.

ANTHONY Maxwell, who has died a day short of his 67th birthday, was Scotland’s leading heraldic artist, whose work was sought worldwide. He transformed the interpretation of heraldic design, bringing a highly stylistic 21st century touch to it.

Avoiding the centuries-old business of painting coats of arms on vellum (he scorned that practice as “brush and goo”), he brought heraldry alive digitally, demonstrating how coats of arms can be applied electronically to paper, wood, stone, glass, metal and textiles, and at considerably cheaper cost.

His clients’ locations ranged from North America to the Antipodes. He rarely met any in person, working alone at home in Edinburgh on his computer. Journalist and heraldist William Newlands of Lauriston recalls: “All his work (for me) was hammered out over the phone down the years”.

Anthony’s imaginative approach created a new wave of style in Scots heraldry, his output proving a vigorous cornucopia of colour, cross and creature. While a rampant lion would certainly bear frightening ferocity, close inspection could show an eye with a ready twinkle.

His IT skills led to a ground-breaking use of 3D printing, through which he pioneered a way of producing a bonnet badge in silver at considerably less cost than traditional silversmithing – not that innovation in any way reduced standards of artwork.

This led to a major commission, the production of a silver head for a crozier head for an Episcopal bishop in England.

Anthony was stimulating company, if more than occasionally exasperating. He possessed his own ideas, and he would take them his own way. And there were few people he didn’t know, or was able to know. When he felt that the heraldic artwork used by a Scots duke deserved better, he simply picked up the phone and called him. Effrontery paid off for both parties, for the updated ducal arms now dance with energy.

When he needed to deepen his reference library, he felt stymied that the 16th century Slains Roll was in private hands and effectively inaccessible. He used his contacts, worked his charms, gained 55 subscribers at £100 a time, and privately published 55 facsimiles in 2006.

Yet he was such a private person. We who thought we knew him actually hardly did, though we certainly were frequent recipients of his endless generosity of spirit, plus his knowledge and sheer artistry.

His career included being a soldier, computer programmer, diamond dealer in Australia, website maker, and creator of a typeface redolent of Celtic hinterland, which was, inevitably, christened “Maxwell”.

Born in Scarborough, the eldest of six, to parents John Lindsay and Catherine Keep, he graduated in fine art from Buckinghamshire New University, then trained as a woodcarver. Those pieces of his which survive in private hands have become treasured, if not pricey.

Opinionated and headstrong, he equally did not shirk to criticise the heraldic establishment. He was no snob, for he dealt with everyone in the same manner.

As master of the sardonic, he was no diplomat either, and put up several backs – and regularly too. He and I occasionally worked together, and while never once did we argue over quality of work, we reached melting-point a score of times over whether Latin or Scots should be the tongue employed for a motto.

A one-time office-bearer of the Heraldry Society of Scotland, Anthony fell out spectacularly with his colleagues, thus making himself a distinctly Marmite character.

His fans, however, continued to delight in the suites of arms he produced, items which would include low-resolution heraldic email signatures drawn in the style of Don Pottinger, the noted 20th century heraldic artist.

His oddest assignment was to produce arms on a large decal now borne on a historic carriage at a railway heritage centre in Derbyshire.

Anthony wasn’t above applying his talents to produce oddities for himself.

Once, when he required a pair of dress trews in Maxwell tartan, he was appalled at prices quoted to him. “I’m only ever going to wear them once a year”, he complained. So he sourced a textile printer, and had a length in cotton printed off in his tartan. Then he arranged with a dressmaker friend to run them up for him.

His passing robs the heraldic world of a maddeningly infuriating but dedicated craftsman, someone whose working hours would have appalled any trade union, for Anthony made himself available by phone from 10 in the morning until the same time at night seven days a week. Clients would receive emails from him sometimes timed after four in the morning.

I’ll miss him more than I can say. “Sir Gordon” he’d growl down the phone. “Sir Anthony”, I’d respond. No, don’t ask why on earth two grown men addressed each other in such schoolboy fashion. But we did.

Anthony leaves behind a huge body of work embellishing the lives of so many, capturing the essence of their lives in imaginative matriculations. His creations added panache to heraldic expression while never lacking dignity.

He enjoyed the company of several long-time girlfriends, but never married. He died in Edinburgh after being diagnosed with Covid during treatment for throat cancer.