Joe Tilson was born in London in 1928. From 1944 to 1946 he worked as a carpenter and cabinet maker, and then served in the R.A.F. (1946 to 1949). He studied at St. Martin’s School of Art (1949 to 1952) and 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. In 1961 he was represented at the Paris Biennale.
His awards include the Gulbenkian Foundation Prize (1960) and the Grand Prix d’Honneur, Biennale of Ljubljana (1996). He was elected Royal Academician in 1991 (ARA 1985) and lives and works in London and Cortona, Tuscany.