A photograph of Elisabeth Frink and Joe Tilson
A photograph of Elisabeth Frink and Joe Tilson

For the third of my archive blogs I am going to talk about a photograph of Joe Tilson and Elisabeth Frink. Born in London in 1928, Tilson initially trained as a carpenter and joiner and served in the RAF from 1946–9. His career as an artist began when he joined the Royal College of Art in 1952. Elisabeth Frink was born at Thurlow in Suffolk 1930 and trained at Guildford and Chelsea School of Art. Taken at Chelsea in 1954, the photograph is of interest because it shows the artists together at the beginning of their distinguished careers. In addition, evidence that Tilson and Frink knew each other is scanty, and the photograph confirms that there was some association. Both of these young artists were destined to go on and achieve great things: Tilson would graduate from the Royal College in 1955, where in the same year he won the Rome Prize. As a result he spent two years working in Italy, and after his return to England he taught at St Martin’s and subsequently at the Slade, the University of Durham, New York and Hamburg. Frink was destined to become an internationally renowned British sculptor and graphic artist, and her early work was noted for being influenced by Moore and Giacometti. From the 1960s her work became focused on horses and male figures, using a distinctively exaggerated style intended to express the inner spirit of the subject matter. Tilson would be regarded in retrospect as ‘the forgotten King of British Pop Art’ and became known for his innovative printmaking. A sometimes controversial figure, in the early 1960s he angered the Printmakers Council because his work incorporated reproductions of images from magazines and newspapers. However, Tilson’s stated aim was to create images that corresponded to his thoughts and feelings, rather than pre-established categories. Both artists were to enjoy numerous public commissions and their work was exhibited at major galleries all over the world. Tilson represented Britain at the Venice Bienalle in 1964 and had retrospectives at Tate Gallery in 1978, the Art Museum, Ljubljana, in 1987 and in the Sackler Galleries, Royal Academy in 2002. Frink diversified into printmaking and illustration work, and her public commissions included works for Salisbury, Coventry and Liverpool Cathedrals, Manchester Airport and the J.F. Kennedy Memorial in Dallas, Texas. Did you go to college with anyone famous? TGA 9813

Written by David Pilling 


jacqueline de jong

A very nice picture and a lovely story.I actually am an artist and hve got several works from the 60-70th by Joe tilson, he even had an exhibition in Amsterdam at my ex-husbands Gallery Brinkman in the 70th for which he made a special object. great to see your text. thanks, Jacqueline de Jong


nice topic Thanks