Joe Tilson (1928-2023)

Joe Tilson (1928-2023)

Joe Tilson (1928-2023)

November 14 2023

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of the British artist Joe Tilson RA at the age of 95.  He died peacefully last week, surrounded by his family in London. Our heartfelt thoughts are with Jos, his wife, and his children Sophy, Jake and Anna and his grandchildren.

As an artist, Joe’s practice was characterised by an unorthodox approach, creating bold Pop Art pieces, political works and elaborate wood reliefs, through to his most recent body of work honouring his love for Venice and Tuscany.

Born in London in 1928, Joe Tilson trained as a carpenter and a joiner, before going to study at St Martin’s School of Art and the Royal College of Art at the same time as Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, Peter Blake and Richard Smith. In 1955 he was awarded a Rome Scholarship enabling him to spend a year in Italy where he was introduced to the classical history and culture of that country that became so important to his art and life in later decades. He went on to teach at St Martin’s, the Slade School of Fine Art, the School of Visual Arts, New York and the Hochschule fuer bildende Kuenste in Hamburg.

After winning the Gulbenkian Foundation Award in 1960, he represented Britain at the 32nd Venice Biennale in 1964. His first retrospective was held at the Boymans van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam (1971), and others followed at the Vancouver Art Gallery (1979), the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol (1984), the Royal Academy, London (2002) and the Palazzo Doria, Loano, Savona, Italy (2007). His work was also included in Art & The 60s: This Was Tomorrow, Tate Britain, London (2004); Eye on Europe, MOMA, New York (2006) and The World Goes Pop, Tate Modern, London (2016).

Joe’s first exhibition at Marlborough, ‘Tilson’, was in 1962.  Since then, he has had more than ten solo shows at the gallery as well as many group exhibitions and Marlborough has collaborated with him on numerous projects around the world. From April to June this year the gallery held two complementary exhibitions which celebrated his prolific and varied practice as well as the rich artistic community in which he played a central role. ‘Modest Materials’ provided an overview of Joe’s career, spanning seven decades, with his most recent body of work completed in 2023. 'A-Z Box of Friends and Family' was a showcase of works by his close friends and family and served as an eclectic celebration of an extraordinary life.

Joe’s works are held in the collections of the Tate Gallery in London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Collection, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Kunsthalle Basel, among others. Joe was elected a Royal Academician in 1991 and a Senior Academician in 2003.