In memoriam: Joe Tilson (1928 – 2023)

We remember British artist Joe Tilson, who brought a joyful riot of colour to the Pop Art scene

Joe Tilson
English pop art painter, sculptor and printmaker Joe Tilson posing next to his mural, 1966
(Image credit: Photo by C. Maher/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

British artist, Joe Tilson, a stalwart of the British Pop movement, has died aged 95, his family have announced. 

Tilson brought a joyful riot of colour to the contemporary art scene in the 1960s, after early experiments with slyly witty work inspired by American culture. After studying at St. Martin’s School of Art and the Royal College of Art, Tilson drew on his training as a carpenter and a joiner as he began creating his early works rooted in realist traditions.

It was in the 1960s when Tilson found his feet, drawn by the British Pop Art movement into creating bold and vibrant works that embraced a jumble of textiles and materials. His prints were notable for their vast size, making an eclectic foil for his pieces crafted from natural materials. 

colourful picture by Joe Tilson

Zikkurat 2, by Joe Tilson, 1967, 20th century, oil and acrylic on wood, 215,5 x 215,5 cm Italy, Lazio, Rome, National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art-GNAM. Whole artwork view. The artist uses the typical bright colours of the advertising language in order to represent a triangular-shaped structure that recalls a stylised zikkurat; the figure projects its shadow upon the white background; in the centre of the first step can be read the inscription ‘Zikkurat’

(Image credit: Photo by Alessandro Vasari/Archivio Vasari/MONDADORI PORTFOLIO via Getty Images)

Tilman was acclaimed throughout his career; in 1991, he was elected a Royal Academician and went on to work with the Royal Academy on a retrospective in 2002. His work has been exhibited around the globe, including retrospectives at London’s Alan Cristea Gallery and Marlborough Fine Art which marked both his 90th birthday and 70 years of making art. They joined exhibitions throughout his career at Boymans van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol and the Palazzo Doria, Italy, in a comprehensive celebration of his work. In 2019, he collaborated with Swatch, creating a watch and an art piece, The Flags, that was shown by the brand at that year’s Venice Biennale.

Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.