Pop artist who was famous long before the Beatles

THINK of Pop Art and you will probably call to mind Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup tins, writes Lesley Potter. But the movement — which celebrated the explosion of newfound freedom and commercialism of the Sixties — included a great number of artists.

One of the British contingent, dubbed the “forgotten king of British Pop Art” is Joe Tilson, and an exhibition of his work is opening at the Bohun Gallery in Henley this weekend.

Tilson was in fact one of the founding figures of the genre in the early Sixties and he was famous long before the Beatles and David Hockney.

Born in 1928, he served in the Royal Air Force and afterwards studied at St Martin’s School of Art and then at the Royal College of Art. He had barely finished his studies before being awarded the much-coveted Rome Prize, which took him to live in Italy where the octogenarian continues to live and work today. He is a Royal Academician and his artistic career was celebrated at the Royal Academy in a retrospective exhibition in 2002.

A lifelong dedicated printmaker, Tilson has gained a reputation as one of Britain’s foremost artists producing prints, multiples, constructions, paintings and reliefs. Many of his prints are largely hand-painted and his “paintings” are based on print-making techniques.

His early work embraced the hedonism and optimism of the Sixties. In the Seventies, after his move to Italy, his work began to reflect on the five elements and Greek and Roman mythology. Italy remains a strong focus in his work and some of his most recent imagery is inspired by the churches of Venice.

All periods of the artist’s career will be represented in this solo show at Bohun Gallery, with a wide selection of prints, multiples and constructions. The show opens tomorrow (Saturday) and runs until