Julian Trevelyan was born in Dorking in Surrey and read English at Cambridge University. In the 1930s he studied with S W Hayter at Atelier 17 in Paris. His early works were experimental, often incorporating everyday objects, and he showed with the English Surrealist Group in 1936. During the Second World War he was a camouflage officer in the Royal Engineers. Following the War he taught at Chelsea School of Art and was engraving tutor at the Royal College of Art, London where David Hockney was then a student.