Anthony Gross was born in 1905, at Dulwich, London, the son of the Hungarian cartographer who and founder of Geographia Ltd and the Suffragette Bella Crowley. His younger sister was the artist Phyllis Pearsall who was widely credited for inventing the London A to Z maps. He attended Shrewsbury House School and later Repton, enrolling at the Slade in 1923. He continued his studies at the Central School of Art and Crafts in London, the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid. In 1925 he took life classes and studied as an engraver at the Académie Julian and Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris. During the early 1930s he exhibited in Paris galleries, becoming a member of the La Jeune Gravure Contemporaine, designed costumes and settings for ballet, and worked with composer Tibor Harsányi. He also married Villeneuve fashion artist Marcelle Marguerite Florenty in 1930.
He co-directed the short film La Joie de vivre with Hector Hoppin in 1934 then returned to Britain to work on animated films. He illustrated a 1929 edition of Jean Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terribles and became an art director for London Films. In 1937 he returned to work in Paris but in 1940 he brought his family to the safety of England, to live at Flamstead in Hertfordshire.
Eric Kennington pushed to have Gross appointed as an official war artist and he spent his initial year painting English coastal defences and troop training. In 1941, with a temporary commission of captain, Gross was attached to the 9th Army and painted within the Egyptian, Syrian, Palestinian, Kurdistan, Lebanese, and Mesopotamian theatres of war, sometimes accompanied by other war artists Edward Ardizzone and Edward Bawden. He later documented the 8th Army’s North African Campaign. From 1943 he transferred to India and Burma to witness the front line battle against the Japanese, producing works that were the subject of a one-man exhibition at the National Gallery when he returned to England.
Gross accompanied the D-Day invasion of Northern France, wading ashore near Arromanches at 2pm on D-Day. He sketched the beachhead landings and spent the night in a slit trench on the beach before moving inland the next day. He followed the Allied armies to Paris and then into Germany, witnessing the meeting of American and Russian forces at the River Elbe on 25 April 1945.
Following the war, Gross returned to working in London, producing commercial illustrations, including in 1954, the dust jacket design for the first edition of Lord of the Flies. From 1948 to 1954 he was a life drawing tutor at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, afterwards becoming Head of Printing at the Slade.
From 1948 to 1971 Gross's work was exhibited in London and New York in one-man shows and as part of The London Group. In 1965 he became the first president of the Printmakers Council. He became an honorary member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers in 1979, the same year being elected as an Associate of the Royal Academy. He became a Senior Academician in 1981, and was awarded a CBE in 1982.
Public collections holding Gross’s work include the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Huddersfield Art Gallery, Imperial War Museum and the Tate Gallery, London, and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna; Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand; the South African National Gallery, Cape Town; the Kunstmuseum, Basel; the National Gallery of Norway, Oslo; the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Cabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe, Rome; the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; the Louvre and the Cabinet des Estampes, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA.