William Tillyer

Biography of William Tillyer

William Tillyer’s skill and hugely varied body of work make him one of Britain’s most respected artists. His multifaceted talent manifests itself through his expertise in painting with watercolors, oils and acrylics alike, but also in his proven brilliance as a printmaker. His incorporation of three-dimensional panels, cut canvases, wired netting or affixed objects in combination with bright color palettes have for years created fascinating dialogues within the artist’s paintings. From works of conceptual intrigue, to minimalist compositions, to lush depictions of landscapes, William Tillyer has persistently sought to question in his work the relationship of art to the world, and the relationship of man to nature.


William Tillyer (born Middlesbrough, United Kingdom, 1938) moved to London in the 1960s to study painting and printmaking at SLADE School of Fine Art. While studying, William Tillyer had two of his paintings selected for the prestigious Young Contemporaries exhibition, an annual show held in London to showcase the best work produced in Britian’s art schools. He exhibited here alongside other notable artists, namely Victor Pasmore and William Turnbull.


William Tillyer then took on a scholarship in France to pursue his interest in gravure. Upon moving to Paris, he studied under Stanley William Hayter at the famous Atelier 17—it was in this fully equipped print workshop that he discovered a passion for the medium. Since this time techniques such as etching and five tone screen printing have featured prominently in his practice.


With the rising status of printmaking as a fine art in Britain at the time, William Tillyer returned to his home country. In 1969 he would meet Bernard Jacobson, one of the leading print dealers and publishers in Britain. Jacobson printed a large number of works by William Tillyer, pushing them forth in a solo exhibition in 1971 at the high-profile Serpentine Gallery. This eventually brought the artist international acclaim.


Today William Tillyer is based in his native North Yorkshire, and continues to spend much time in the studio. Over 15 of his works belong to the permanent collection of the Tate Britain, London. His works can also be seen in the collections of the MoMA, and the Brooklyn Art Museum, both in New York, the Boston Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In 2013 the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art dedicated a major retrospective to him.

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