Born in 1923 in Brooklyn, New York U.S.A., Irving was spotted drawing portraits in Washington Square and won a scholarship to the Brooklyn High School of Music and Art, from which he gained a university entrance diploma. From 1941 to 1943 he studied at the Art School of the National Academy of Design in Brooklyn before joining the U.S. Navy in which he served from 1943-46. Following the war, he went on to Cornell University where he studied History of Greek, Roman and Renaissance Art. Travel to Florence to study at the Academy of Fine Arts followed and it was here that he met his wife, Doreen who was working there as a governess, having completed her own university education at Kings College London. They returned to London together to get married and Irving then studied at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1952-55 under Professor William Coldstream and John Aldridge A.R.A.