Rosalda Gilardi was born in Savona, Italy, in 1922. She studied sculpture at the Accademia Albertina in Turin and received her diploma in 1959. Before she had graduated, she was encouraged by her teachers and sculptor Umberto Mastroianni to exhibit in Turin. In 1958 she showed in the Mostra d’arte giovanile at the Palazzo della Quadriennale in Rome, and was awarded the Premio Città di Roma e del Consiglio dei Ministri. That same year she married and moved to Locarno in Switzerland, where she met and befriended Jean Arp. She participated in many group shows and held solo exhibitions at the Neuchätel and Moutier museums. She received numerous prizes and also produced public comissions of sacred art. At the same time she took part in shows in Italy, including the the Carrara Biennale, the Milan Biennale, and the Padua Bronzetto Biennale.

In 1966 she met Jacques Lipchitz, Marino Marini, Henry Moore, and Isamu Noguchi, during a visit to Querceta in the Versilia area of Tuscany. Deeming it an ideal place to work, she set up a studio. The following year she went to Paris, where she exhibited in the Salon de Mai and met César Baldaccini, Émile Gilioli, and Étienne Martin. In 1972 she took part in the Venice Biennale and was a guest of Peggy Guggenheim. Two years later she spent four months travelling around Latin America, visiting Venzuela, Columbia, Equador, Perù, and Argentina. She was later invited, along with Andrea Cascella, Arnaldo Pomodoro, and Alberto Viani, to represent Italy at the 1979 Esposition de Sculpture Européenne in Brussels.

During the 1980s she took part in numerous exhibition and devoted herself to graphic art, some examples of which can be seen at the Gabinetto delle Stampe e Disegni in Florence, and many other Italian and international museums. In the 1990s her work was well-received at the Osaka International Triennial Competition of Sculpture, and she won the Rosa Papa Tamburi award from the city of Iesi, where a survey of her work was presented at the Pinacoteca Palazzo Pianetti. Throughout the course of her career, Gilardi evolved from figurative to abstract art and eventually worked only with essential shapes, to which color was added in her latest works. Rosalda Gilardi died in 1999 in Lugano.