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 studied at St. Martin's School of Art (1949 to 1952) and then at the Royal College of Art, London (1952 to 1955) where he received the Rome Prize, taking him to live in Italy in 1955. He returned to London in 1957, and from 1958 to 1963 he taught at St Martin's School of Art, and subsequently at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London and The School of Visual Arts, New York.
One of the founding figures of British Pop art in the early 1960's, Tilson was an enthusiastic proponent of the hedonism, optimism and political activism that were such striking characteristics of that decade. His work embraced advances in technology, reflected the ever-increasing power of mass media and exposed changing attitudes towards sexual liberation. In the 1970's he moved to Italy and the subject matter of his work radically changed to reflect this new shift, with a new emphasis on the five elements and Greek and Roman mythology.
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. His work is held in collections internationally including the Tate Gallery, London, MoMA, New York and the Stedelijk, Amsterdam. He is a Royal Acadamecian and his artistic career was celebrated at the Royal Academy in a retrospective exhibition in 2002.
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