Roland Vivian Pitchforth trained at the Wakefield School of Art (1912-14) and at Leeds College of Art (1914-15). He served in the Wakefield Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery during the First World War and then returned to complete his studies in Leeds, where he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. He took up a number of teaching positions from 1926, and became a member of the London Group in 1929. Throughout the 1930s he painted oil and watercolour portraits and landscapes.
During 1940-1945 Pitchforth served as an official war artist. Then from 1945 to the mid 1960s he painted solely in watercolour and resumed his teaching career. He was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1942.