One of the leading American abstract sculptors, Seymour Lipton was born in New York. Although interested in art and aesthetics at an early age, Lipton decided to train as a dental surgeon, completing his degree at Columbia University in 1927. Soon, however, he began experimenting with sculpture, mainly in wood. His works were first exhibited in 1933–1934 a group show at the John Reed Club in New York; his first one-person show was held at New York's A.C.A. Gallery in 1938.
In the mid-1940s Lipton began using metal because of its greater flexibility. He taught at the Cooper Union from 1942–1944 and the New School for Social Research from 1940 to 1965. During this time he was represented by a sequence of important New York galleries. He began to receive major corporate commissions, including sculpture for the Inland Steel Company Building in Chicago (1957) and the IBM Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York (1961–1962).
Through the medium of metal sculpture, Lipton endeavored to portray the inner complexities of the human psyche through shapes that enclose and oppose each other, interrelating convex and concave, solid and hollowed forms. Although his imagery was often based on visual stimuli, his expressive abstractions were never literal translations of the visible world. He altered and arranged shapes to create sculptures symbolizing intangible, universal concepts absorbed from sociology, psychology, and myth.
Duncan and Marjorie Phillips were two of Lipton's many admirers during the early 1960s. The sculptor invited them to his New York studio in 1963 after Marjorie suggested that The Phillips Collection host an exhibition of his work. For the resulting exhibition in 1964, Phillips wrote in his catalogue essay: “The impressionism of Lipton is a quality of the volumes in light corresponding to a flash of thought.”