Painter, printmaker and writer, Robert Kipniss was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1931. His father, Sam, was a painter and lay-out director who designed the pages of the Sears & Roebuck Catalogue and his mother, Stella, was a fashion artist. His mother encouraged him to attend Saturday classes at the Art Students League in 1947. He refused to be taught and he only wanted to draw so he joined a class without an instructor. In that class he had his first experience of drawing from live models.
In 1948 he attended Wittenberg College (now Wittenberg University) in Springfield, Ohio. For the first time in his life he took his academic studies seriously, he also began writing poetry. His roommate in his second year was Pierre Lhomme. Lhomme went on become a famous French cinematographer and he introduced Kipniss to French films. Kipniss was deeply affected by these films, especially the works of Marcel Carne and Jean Cocteau. The two started a club that rented foreign movies from the Museum of Modern Art and the movies were very well attended. In 1950 Kipniss transferred to the University of Iowa, deciding to become a poet. He also took up painting and entered a competition in 1951. He was awarded his first one-man show in New York City. He stayed in Iowa University and received a Masters of Fine Arts degree.
After graduating Kipniss married Jean Prutton and moved to New York City. There, he took up being a professional artist, often hustling at pool halls for extra money. He was drafted into the Army in 1956 and stationed in Fort Lee, VA. Because he was married, he was allowed to live off base, enabling him to continue painting on nights and weekends. Upon his discharge from the Army he and his wife moved back to New York City and after searching for years for a gallery to represent him, he was taken in by The Contemporaries, a gallery on Madison Avenue. The gallery gave him several one-man shows, however to make ends meet, he worked at a bookstore and then for the U.S. Post Office. The post office job was good and he was able to work evenings and paint during the day. In 1963 he quit his job and was picked up by another dealer, Muriel Werner, who sold forty paintings for him during that year.
In 1967 Kipniss tried his hand at printmaking. His first prints were drypoints and they were represented by Associated American Artists. Murray Roth encouraged him to try lithography in 1968. A year later he received two commissions from Associated American Artists for his lithographs. Sylvan Cole, the director of AAA, sent him to George Miller & Sons, where he worked with Burr Miller and his two sons. Kipniss produced some four hundred lithographs. He began making mezzotints in the late 1980s and by 1990 the majority of his prints were mezzotints.
Kipniss is a member of the National Academy of Design, The Century Association and the Royal Academy of Painter- Printmakers in London.