Joe Tilson

Joe Tilson was born in London in 1928. From 1944 to 1946 he worked as a carpenter and cabinet maker before serving in the R.A.F between 1946 and 1949. After leaving military service, he returned to London to study at St. Martin's School of Art from 1949 to 1952, alongside Leon Kosoff and Frank Auerbach, and at the Royal College of Art from 1952 to 55 where he met Peter Blake, Allen Jones, Patrick Caulfield and David Hockney, who alongside Tilson were instrumental in the birth of British Pop Art. In 1955 the Royal College awarded Tilson the Rome Prize, taking him to live in Italy for a year, a country from which he has drawn a lifetime of inspiration.

He returned to London in 1957 and took up teaching positions over the next five years at St Martin's School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art before travelling to New York to teach at The School of Visual Arts.

One of the founding figures of British Pop, Tilson was an enthusiastic proponent of political activism, sexual liberation and social change. He consistently broke the pre-existing boundaries of printing and print-making as he sought to widen the scope and impact of contemporary art. However, by 1970, Tilson became increasingly disillusioned with the consumer society that Pop Art had done so much to highlight and increasingly frustrated with the lack of political action that the 1960s in Britain had promised.  He moved from London to the countryside and his subject matter changed radically as he turned towards cultural history as a source of inspiration.

Tilson has been a lifelong dedicated printmaker and has gained a reputation as one of Britain's foremost artists producing prints, multiples, constructions, paintings and reliefs. Exhibiting globally since the 1960s, Tilson's work is also held in collections including the Tate, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon; Galleria Nazionale d Arte Moderna, Rome; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Yale Centre for British Art, Connecticut; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

Tilson was elected a Royal Academician in 2001, becoming a Senior Academician in 2003 when the Royal Academy presented a retrospective of his work.

Cristea Roberts Gallery is the exclusive worldwide representative for Joe Tilson's original prints.

Joe Tilson lives and works in London, Venice and Cortona.

Online Viewing Room throughout July 2021

Joe Tilson: Alchera

This Online Viewing Room features a selection of ten prints by Joe Tilson (b. 1928) which bring to life a complex world of nature, ecology, and philosophy, replete with references to Greek Mythology, organic cyclical time, the rhythms of the cosmos, and Aboriginal culture. Made between 1971 and 1980 the works foster in us, at a time of urgent ecological concern, a deeper understanding of the elements of the natural world.

Click here to start exploring

Image: Joe Tilson in his studio in London, June 2021. Photo: Jake Tilson.


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