Eduardo Paolozzi studied at the Edinburgh College of Art in 1943, briefly at Saint Martin's School of Art in 1944, and then at the Slade School of Fine Art at University College London from 1944 to 1947, after which he worked in Paris.
Paolozzi came to public attention in the 1950s by producing a range of striking screenprints and "Art Brut" sculpture. He was a founder of the Independent Group in 1952, which is regarded as the precursor to the mid-1950s British and late 1950s American Pop Art movements. His seminal 1947 collage "I was a Rich Man's Plaything" is considered the earliest standard bearer representing Pop Art.He always described his work as surrealist art and, while working in a wide range of media though his career, became more closely associated with sculpture. Paolozzi is recognized for producing largely lifelike statuary works, but with rectilinear (often cubic) elements added or removed, or the human form deconstructed in a cubist manner.
He taught sculpture and ceramics at several institutions, including the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg (1960–62), University of California, Berkeley (in 1968) and at the Royal College of Art. Paolozzi had a long association with Germany, having worked in Berlin from 1974 as part of the Berlin Artist Programme of the German Academic Exchange Programme. He was a professor at the Fachhochschule in Cologne from 1977 to 1981, and later taught sculpture at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich.
Paolozzi’s graphic work of the 1960s was highly innovative. In a series of works he explored and extended the possibilities and limits of the silkscreen medium. The resulting prints are characterised by Pop culture references and technological imagery.
Paolozzi was appointed CBE in 1968 and in 1979 he was elected to the Royal Academy. He was promoted to the office of Her Majesty's Sculptor in Ordinary for Scotland in 1986, which he held until his death. He also received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 1987. Paolozzi was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1989. In 1994, Paolozzi gave the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art a large body of his works, and much of the content of his studio.