Lot 7
  • 7

JOE TILSON, R.A. | Page 9 - Black Dwarf

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Joe Tilson
  • Page 9 - Black Dwarf
  • signed, signed with stencil, titled, dated 1969. and inscribed on the backboard
  • oil and silkscreen print on fabric and stained wooden construction
  • 187 by 125.5cm.; 73½ by 49½in.


The Artist
Waddington Galleries, London, where acquired by the present owner in 2006


London, Marlborough New London Gallery, Joe Tilson: Pages, March - April 1970, cat. no.9;
Montreal, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Pop Art, 23rd October 1992 - 24th January 1993, cat. no.188, illustrated;
London, Peter Gwyther Gallery, Joe Tilson: 'Pop' Paintings and Prints, 11th November - 24th December 1999, illustrated;
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Tilson: Pop to Present, 14th March - 12th April 2002, cat. no.17, illustrated;
London, Waddington Galleries, Joe Tilson, Works from 1961 to 1970, 2006, cat. no.8, illustrated;
London, Tate Modern, The World Goes Pop, 17th September 2015 - 24th January 2016, cat. no.157, illustrated p.241.


Arturo Carlo Quintavalle, 'Tilson', Pre-Art, Milan, 1977, p.206.


The work is composed of wooden compartments each containing a printed fabric cushion-like element. The upper quarter has another cushion-like element with stained wooden lettering over it with a further wooden plank running horizontally above. The work in its entirety is held within the Artist's wooden frame. The cushion-like elements are all adhered to the work along their upper edge, and hang loosely below. One cushioned element is deliberately missing, in keeping with the Artist's intentions. The upper cushion is adhered at all of its edges. The lettering is securely adhered. Some of the cloth that constitutes the cushions has slightly frayed strands and ends. There are also some minor instances of staining and dirt to these elements. There are small chips, nicks and tiny flecks of loss to all the wooden elements, mainly in keeping with the materials and Artist's intentions. There is some light surface dirt and dust throughout, and some instances of studio matter and detritus are visible. This excepting the work appears to be in very good overall original condition. The work is housed within the Artist's wooden frame. Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

We are grateful to the Artist for his kind assistance with the cataloging of the present work. ‘His series, Pages, 1969-70, sets humanity against hardware; the matt, fleshy medium of soft, stuffed, stitched canvas replaces the vacuum-formed plastic of previous series.’

(Michael Compton and Marco Livingstone, Tilson, L’Agrifoglio Editions, Milan, 1993, p.9.)


Language and communication have always been at the forefront of Joe Tilson’s art. From works created in the 1950s, when fresh out of the Royal College, through to those created in the past twelve months, even now, in his 90s, the artist continues to push boundaries and explore new visual possibilities. Born in 1928 Tilson worked as a carpenter and joiner before going to art school. To many he is an artist best known for his association with British Pop Art of the 1960s – and whilst he was a key figure in these golden years, including exhibiting at the 1964 Venice Biennale – his work has always remained separate from contemporaries such as David Hockney and Peter Blake. Through his paintings, he pushed past Pop to engage with mass and popular culture in an intellectual way that few of his contemporaries did, resulting in the most original of artworks.

Through his own visual vocabulary Tilson explores ideas of materials and cultures, both contemporary and ancient. This visual exploration evolved into a series of works of the late 1960s known as the Pages. In the late 1960s Tilson, together with his wife Jos, became increasingly involved in the cooperative anti-authoritarian movement. In a decade of great social, cultural, political and sexual shift, there emerged a new counterculture, with anti-establishment underground publications such as Muhammad Speaks, IT (International Times) and Black Dwarf (from which the present work takes its title). With a palette and format that immediately evokes newsprint, Tilson challenged the manipulation of the media, and the, what was then, only means of news dissemination through the broadsheet newspapers. In these works he referenced counter-culture icons such as Che Guevara and Martin Luther King, and drew on the poetry of James Joyce, Ezra Pound and, as seen in the present work, Robert Duncan, one of the 'New American Poets'. It became, as Michael Compton writes, ‘an art of affirmation’ (Michael Compton and Marco Livingstone, Tilson, L’Agrifoglio Editions, Milan, 1993, p.10).

The very medium of the Pages series challenged modern mass production, with wooden construction elements (drawn from his years as a carpenter and joiner) and screen-printed canvas, stitched and stuffed by his wife Jos. As with all of Tilson’s art – and indeed the work of all great artists – we are not presented with straightforward questions or answers. Instead we are encouraged to challenge the accepted and to look for meanings, however well hidden, in order to make sense of the work around us. It is these challenges that make the present work as relevant now as it was upon its creation half a century ago.