Born in New York in 1903, Adolph Gottlieb enrolled in the Art Students League in 1919, studying with John Sloan and Robert Henri. In 1921 he went to Europe where he attended drawing classes at the Académie de la Grand Chaumière in Paris. He also traveled to Berlin and Munich and when he returned to the United States in 1923 he studied at the Parsons School of Design, the Art Students League, Cooper Union and the Educational Alliance Art School.
In 1935 Gottlieb was one of the founding members of “The Ten”, a group that advocated abstract and expressionist painting. He was put on the payroll of the Works Progress Administration in 1936. Gottlieb’s pictograph paintings in 1941 inaugurated the mature phase of his work and they were shown in the second annual exhibition of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors at the Wildenstein Galleries in 1942.
In 1943 Gottlieb, with John Graham and Mark Rothko, was a founding member of the “New York Artist Painters”. During the 1940s he participated in and chaired a public forum on art and culture. His first retrospective was held in 1968 in simultaneous exhibitions at the Guggenheim and Whitney Museums in New York. He suffered a stroke in 1971 and continued to work, even with paralysis in his left side.
In 1973, with the help of his wife, Esther, Gottlieb began working on a series of monotypes. He quickly mastered the process of making monotypes and this printmaking technique allowed subsequent viewers to see the evolution of Gottlieb’s ideas. In 1972 Gottlieb was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He died in New York in 1974.