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Joe Tilson

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Tilson (left) and Enzo Di Martino in 2014

Joseph Charles Tilson RA (24 August 1928 – 9 November 2023) was a British visual artist and fellow of the Royal Academy.[1][2] He was involved in the Pop Art movement in the 1960s; he made paintings, prints and constructions.[3]

Early life and education


Tilson was born in London on 24 August 1928.[3] He was in the Royal Air Force from 1946 to 1949. He studied at Saint Martin's School of Art from 1949 until 1952, and then at the Royal College of Art until 1955.[1] In that year he received a Rome Prize to the British School at Rome, and went to Italy for two years.[2] He returned to London in 1957, and from 1958 to 1963 he taught at Central Saint Martin's,[citation needed] and subsequently taught at the Slade School of Fine Art,[citation needed] University College London, The School of Visual Arts in New York City and the Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Hamburg.[citation needed] In 1961 he exhibited at the Paris Biennale.



During the 1960s Tilson became one of the leading figures associated with the British Pop Art movement. Making use of his previous experience as a carpenter and joiner, Tilson produced wooden reliefs and constructions as well as prints and paintings.[citation needed] As a student at the RCA Tilson he associated with Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, R. B. Kitaj, Peter Blake, Allen Jones, Patrick Caulfield and David Hockney, among others.[citation needed]

His first one-man show was held at the Marlborough Gallery, London in 1962.[4] In 1977 he joined the Waddington Galleries, and also exhibited at the Alan Cristea Gallery and the Giò Marconi Galleries in Milan. Tilson's work gained an international reputation when shown at the XXXII Venice Biennale in 1964,[citation needed] which led to a retrospective at the Boyman's Museum, Rotterdam in 1964. Further retrospective exhibitions followed at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1979 and the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol in 1984.[citation needed]

Growing disillusionment with the consumer society led to a change in Tilson work in the 1970s.[citation needed] After moving to Wiltshire in 1972, Tilson began to use a wider variety of materials, including stone, straw and rope in an effort to transcend time and culture by drawing on the motifs of pre-Classical mythology. This body of work is called Alchera.

Tilson's work was exhibited regularly in solo shows throughout the world: Cortona Centro Culturale Fontanella Borghese, Rome (1990), Plymouth City Museum (1991), Palazzo Pubblico, Siena (1995), Mestna Gallery, Ljubljana (1996) and Galleria Comunale d'Arte, Cesena (2000). In 2002, a major retrospective was held at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Among Tilson's awards were the Gulbenkian Foundation Prize (1960) and the Grand Prix d'Honneur, Biennale of Ljubljana (1996). He was a Royal Academician and his career was celebrated with a retrospective exhibition in 2002 at the Royal Academy 'Joe Tilson: Pop to Present' (Sackler Galleries) from April 2002. He was also invited to paint the banner for the "Palio", Siena in 1996.[citation needed][5] In 2019, he was commissioned make an installation for the Swatch Pavilion at the Venice Biennial inspired by his 'Stones of Venice' works. He also designed a limited-edition watch as part of the project.[6]

Tilson was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy (ARA) in 1985 and a full Royal Academician (RA) in 1991.[3]

Personal life and death


Tilson lived and worked in both London and Italy. He was married in Venice in 1956 to Joslyn Morton (b. 1934),[7][8] and had three children: Jake (b. 1958), Anna (b. 1959), and Sophy (b. 1965).[8]

Joe Tilson died on 9 November 2023, at the age of 95.[9][10]



Tilson's solo exhibitions include:[citation needed]



Tilson's art is held in public collections including the Tate Gallery, London; MoMA, New York and the Stedelijk, Amsterdam.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Benzi, Fabio (2003). "Chini, Galileo". Oxford Art Online. doi:10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T017233. ISBN 978-1-884446-05-4.
  2. ^ a b Tilson, Joseph, Called Joe. Benezit Dictionary of Artists. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/benz/9780199773787.article.B00182966. (subscription required).
  3. ^ a b c "Joe Tilson, R.A". Royal Academy of Arts Collections. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  4. ^ "Joe Tilson". Marlborough Fine Art.
  5. ^ www.ilpalio.org, Orlando Papei e Fabrizio Gabrielli -. "Pittori del Palio di Siena". www.ilpalio.org.
  6. ^ Magazine, Wallpaper (13 May 2019). "Swatch and Joe Tilson fly the flag for Venice". Wallpaper.
  7. ^ http://www.baacorsham.co.uk/cached/Joslyn%20Tilson.htm
  8. ^ a b Will Birch (2010). Ian Dury: The Definitive Biography. Pan Macmillan. p. 359. ISBN 978-0-283-07121-8.
  9. ^ Joe Tilson
  10. ^ Gayford, Martin (13 November 2023). "Joe Tilson (1928–2023)". Apollo Magazine. Retrieved 13 November 2023.

Further reading

  • Joe Tilson: Pages (exh. cat., London, Marlborough F.A., 1970) ASIN: B000KCXLN6
  • Joe Tilson (exh. cat., Rotterdam, Mus. Boymans–van Beuningen, 1973) [with texts by the artist] A. C. Quintavalle: Tilson, preface P. Restany (Milan, 1977) ASIN: B005IV7UKO
  • Tilson Alchera. Notes for Country Works, Marlborough Gallery (1976)ASIN: B00CE48WDM
  • Gillo Dorfles: Maestri contemporanei: Tilson, (Milan, 1982)
  • Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco: Opere recenti: Extra Moenia, (Todi, 1992) M. Compton and M. Livingstone: Tilson (London and Milan, 1993) ISBN 8886264003
  • Enrico Crispolti: Terracotta e maiolica; sculture e rilievi, (Imola, 1995)
  • Mel Gooding: Tilson: Pop to Present, (Royal Academy of Arts, London 2002)
  • Enzo Di Martino: Tilson, The Printed Works – L'Opera Grafica 1963–2009, preface by Phillip Rylands and texts by Alan Cristea, Enzo Di Martino, Joe Tilson, Papiro Arte (2009) ISBN 8870604985
  • Venice, 2009 (Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2010)
  • Joe Tilson – a Survey, Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd (24 Feb 2013)ISBN 1904373054