Donald Judd was born in 1928 in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. He enrolled at the Art Students League in New York in 1948 but transferred a few months later to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1949 he moved back to New York. The Panoramas Gallery organized his first solo exhibition in 1957. That same year Judd took art history classes at Columbia University. In the early 1960s he switched from painting to sculpture and started to develop an interest in architecture. Judd challenged the artistic convention of originality by using industrial processes and materials—such as steel, concrete, and plywood—to create large, hollow, Minimalist sculptures, mostly in the form of boxes, which he arranged in repeated, simple geometric forms.

His second solo show was held at the Green Gallery in New York in 1963. From 1962 to 1964 he worked as an instructor at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. The Leo Castelli Gallery in New York organized the first of a long series of individual exhibitions in 1966. That year Judd was also hired as a visiting artist at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and the following year he taught sculpture at Yale University in New Haven. The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York organized the first retrospective of his work in 1968. The artist received many fellowships during the 1960s. In 1971 he participated in the Guggenheim International Award exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, along with other Minimalist and Conceptual artists.

Judd moved to Marfa, Texas, in 1972. He participated in his first Venice Biennale in 1980, and in Documenta in Kassel in 1982. During the first half of the 1980s, Judd worked on plans for the Chinati Foundation in Marfa; the renovated compound of buildings opened in 1986 as a showcase for his sculptures, as well as for the work of other contemporary artists. In 1987 Judd was honored with a large exhibition at the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven; this show traveled to Düsseldorf, Paris, Barcelona, and Turin. The Whitney Museum of American Art organized a traveling retrospective of his work in 1988. During his lifetime Judd published a large body of theoretical writings, in which he rigorously promoted the cause of Minimalist art. Donald Judd died in 1994 in New York.