Born in 1931 in Orrell, Wigan, Norman Dilworth initially studied at the Slade School of Art, from 1952 to 1956, having previously studied locally, at Wigan School of Art. Whilst at the Slade, he was attached to both the painting and sculpture departments, at the suggestion of William Coldstream. Whilst studying, he was awarded the prestigious Tonks Prize, in 1955—in the following year, he was awarded the Sunday Times Drawing Prize. In his graduating year, he was awarded a French Government Scholarship, which allowed him to move to Paris, and continue studying. He made the acquaintance of Giacometti whilst living in Paris, visiting his studio.
Upon returning to England, Dilworth had a succession of teaching jobs, and in 1958 married Mary Webber, with whom he had three children. In this period, the strong, linear drawings that he had made in Paris hardened into painterly sculptures, and a movement towards Concrete and Systems Art. Throughout this period, he exhibited regularly in the ‘Young Contemporaries’ shows, and had his first solo exhibition in 1968. He also taught at Reading University, then at Camberwell School of Art.
In 1970, Dilworth met Kenneth Martin whilst Martin was judging a prize for a Welsh commission in Haverfordwest, beginning an influential friendship. In this same year, Dilworth had his first show in the Hague, and bought an apartment in Amsterdam, working with structures of steel rods, creating pieces such as ‘Puff Ball’ (1985), a freestanding large sphere of rods. He also worked on reliefs, playing with borders, and black and white space in his Boundary Line series.
In 1980, Dilworth was invited to co-organise the PIER + OCEAN exhibition with Gerhard von Graevenitz at the Hayward Gallery, which showed, amongst others, John Baldersarri, Carl Andre and Mario Merz. In 1982, he married his second wife, Christine Cadin, with whom he has had two children. They soon moved to Holland, where he held solo shows at Mondriaanhuis, and the Stedelijk Museum.
The late 70s saw Dilworth working more with wood, instead of metal. He created structures of wood stained black, as well as installations in galleries and the open air. ‘Linear progression’ (1985) describes a zig-zag through a park, and ‘Meander’ (1991) can be seen glowing under the surface of a German river.
In 2002 Dilworth moved from Amsterdam to Lille. In 2005 he was given carte blanche at Musée des Beaux Arts, Calais, and, in 2007 had a retrospective at Musée Matisse, Le Cateau Cambrésis.