Joe Rose was born into a Jewish family in Waldenberg, Germany on 17 April 1915. In 1933 he was imprisoned in Sonnenburg Concentration Camp for anti-Nazi activities, and then in Buchenwald in 1938.

In 1939 he and his wife escaped to England and he served in the British army throughout the war. Afterwards, he studied art and worked and exhibited in Australia, where he was awarded the British Empire Medal, afterwards dividing his time between Australia and London. An exhibition of his work was held at Ben Uri in 1987 and in 1990 his portrait of Barry Fealdman, who was appointed Curator at Ben Uri in 1950, was included in the exhibition 'Ben Uri Highlights: Key Works and Figures, 1915-1990', held in the Dean Street Gallery, to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Society, to recall both Barry Fealdman's 'long and valued service as Curator and both men's continuing involvement as members of the Art Committee'. Joe Rose died in Tasmania, Australia in 1999.