Joe Tilson RA (b.1928) was one of the founding figures of British Pop art in the early 1960s and was famous long before the Beatles and David Hockney. He studied at St. Martin's School of Art and then at the Royal College of Art. In 1955 he won the much coveted Rome Prize, which took him to live in Italy where he continues to live and work today. He is a Royal Academician and his artistic career was celebrated at the Royal Academy in a retrospective exhibition in 2002. Despite his success and perhaps due to his relocation to Italy, his work remains one of the most affordable artists of his generation.
His early work embraced advances in technology, reflected the ever-increasing power of mass media and exposed changing attitudes towards sexual liberation. When he moved to Italy in the 1970s, the subject matter of his work radically changed to reflect this new shift, with an emphasis on the five elements and Greek and Roman mythology. Much of his most recent printwork explores the architecture of Italian churches.
A lifelong dedicated printmaker, Joe Tilson has gained a reputation as one of Britain's foremost artists producing prints, multiples, constructions, paintings and reliefs. His enduring appeal relies on his consistent refusal to recognise the artificial divisions between the unique and the editioned artwork. Many of his prints are largely hand-painted and his 'paintings' are based around print-making techniques. Joe Tilson's early work embraced the hedonism and optimism of the 1960s and he became a natural exponent of the 'Pop Art' era.
His work is represented in public and private collections worldwide. Tilson's first one-man exhibition took place at the Marlborough Gallery, London, in 1962. He continued to exhibit at their galleries in New York and Rome until 1977 when he joined the Waddington Galleries. In 1985 Joe Tilson was elected to membership of the Royal Academy of Arts, London.