Born in 1936 in Massachusetts, Frank Stella attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and received his A.B. in 1958 from Princeton University, where studied with the eminent art historian William Seitz. After graduation, Stella established permanent residence in New York and achieved almost immediate fame with his Black Paintings (1958–1960). Throughout his career, Frank Stella has continued to challenge the boundaries of painting and accepted notions of style. As early as 1959, critics dubbed him the “enfant terrible” (or "bad boy”) of the contemporary art scene. His art—simple, cool, pure—contrasted dramatically with the Abstract Expressionist style that had dominated mid-century American art. The Black Paintings, in their severe simplicity and use of a single somber color, opened new paths for abstraction and exerted a profound influence on the art of the 1960s.Though his early work influenced and allied him with the emerging minimalist approach, Stella did not regard himself as an adherent of minimalism, and in fact, his art has become more complex and dynamic over the years.
The Leo Castelli Gallery in New York held Stella’s first one-person show in 1962. The following year, he was an artist-in-residence at Dartmouth College, where he taught advanced courses in painting. The Museum of Modern Art, under William Rubin's stewardship, gave him his first retrospective in 1970. While confined to a hospital bed following surgery, Stella began drawings for his Polish Village series (1970–1974). This series was an important step toward his pivotal Exotic Bird series (1976–1980), which has decisively shaped his recent work. Having moved from a restrained minimalist aesthetic, Stella’s compositions are exuberant both in color and form, joining together painting and sculpture, a form in which he has become increasingly interested. The artist has been awarded many honors, including the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship of Poetry at Harvard University. "Working Space," his provocative lecture series (later published), addresses the issue of pictorial space in postmodern art. The Phillips Collection has a work from the Polish Village series and a recently acquired print dating to 1967.