Obituary for Gunther Kress

Gunther Kress, one of the key figures in the forging of social semiotics, as well being one of the definers of multimodality studies, has died. Born in 1940 in Germany, Kress’ family moved to Australia where, on leaving school, he pursued a career as a furrier. Later, he moved to the UK where he became a student of Michael Halliday, publishing one of the early influential collections of Halliday’s essays. Moving back to Australia, in the 1980s he founded the post-Hallidayan school of Australian social semiotics, along with Theo van Leeuwen, Terry Threadgold, Bob Hodge, Stephen Muecke and others. It was there that he published the first version of Reading Images with van Leeuwen. Moving back to the UK in the 1990s as Professor at the Institute of Education in London, he and van Leeuwen published the 1996 edition of the work Reading Images which was to become the most cited text in the field and effectively launched multimodality studies. It led to him being increasingly in demand for speaking engagements across the globe. His interest in literacy, multimodality and new modes of reading continued in the following decades, accompanied by a number of books including Literacy in the New Media Age (2003). A disarmingly humble colleague, Kress was as well-known as it is possible to be in the academic profession but still had time to talk to students and fellow academics as well as attending and learning from the papers of others at conferences. Collegial to the last, his death occurred while he was away at a conference on 20 June 2019. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him personally and by a good many who never had the privilege of meeting him in person.