Born in Tunisia, Phillip King came to England in 1945. After two years of National Service, he read Modern Languages at Cambridge University from 1955 to 1957 before completing a postgraduate year in the sculpture department at St. Martin's School of Art. After graduating in 1958 he worked as an assistant to Henry Moore and travelled to the US where he met the sculptor David Smith who encouraged him to work in steel. In 1959 King began teaching at St. Martin's with Anthony Caro and Eduardo Paolozzi, and in 1960 he won a Boise Scholarship to travel to Greece, where the classical architecture inspired a series of drawings in which he developed a new, abstract approach to sculptural form.
Phillip King was Professor of Sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London for ten years from 1980. In 1990 he was made a Royal Academician and professor emeritus at the Royal College of Art. He worked in a variety of mediums including clay, fibreglass, ceramics and newspaper. King represented Britain at the XXXIV Venice Biennale in 1968, and in 1998 was the first British artist since Henry Moore to have an exhibition at the Forte di Belvedere in Florence. The Tate presented a retrospective of his work in 2021.