Born in Ismailia, Egypt, in 1921, Tony Tuckson studied at Hornsey College School of Art, London, and at Kingston School of Art from 1937 to 1940. Following service in World War II, he continued his studies from 1946 to 1949 at the National Art School, East Sydney Technical College, under Ralph Balson and Grace Crowley. Tuckson worked as the assistant to the director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 1951, and held the position of deputy director from 1957 until his death in 1973; he was instrumental in building the gallery’s collection of Indigenous Australian art. Tuckson’s ongoing interest in the mark-making and underlying spirituality of Aboriginal art greatly influenced his approach to materials and the painted surface, particularly in the 1960s. Throughout his career Tuckson also drew inspiration from Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse, as well as fellow Australian painter Ian Fairweather.

While Tuckson is now recognised as a major Australian painter of the postwar era, during his lifetime he rarely exhibited. Only a close circle of family and friends knew of his painting activities. His work has been the subject of two major retrospectives: Tony Tuckson 1921–1973, a memorial exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, in 1976, and more recently, the National Gallery of Australia’s touring exhibition, Painting forever: Tony Tuckson in 2000.