Born in London he was evacuated from there during World War II, to study at the Northampton School of Art between 1940 and 1941, before being conscripted into the Royal Air Force as a navigator. When the war was over, he resumed his course at Goldsmiths College from 1946 to 1950, where he would later go on to teach between 1962 and 1983 where he met and became good friends with Basil Beattie, Harry Thubron amongst others. He was elected to The London Group in 1955. He worked in studios in the East End of London from 1970 onwards.
In the early 1950's Bert met and was hugely influenced by many of the "St Ives" artists including Peter Lanyon, Roger Hilton, Terry Frost and Sandra Blow.
Irvin won a major Arts Council Award in 1975 and a Gulbenkian Award for printmaking in 1983.
His work is widely exhibited both in the UK and abroad, in such places as Arts Council of Great Britain, Birmingham City Art Gallery, the Chase Manhattan Bank, the Contemporary Art Society, Manchester City Art Gallery, Whitworth Gallery Manchester, Leeds City Gallery Tate Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum Oxford University, Cambridge University and Warwick University Arts Centre.
Irvin married Beatrice Olive Nicolson in August 1947.