Graham Vivian Sutherland was born on August 24, 1903, in London. From 1921 to 1926 he attended Golsmiths’ College in London, where he specialized in engraving. His work was shown for the first time in 1923 at the Royal Academy, London, where he exhibited frequently until 1929. His first solo exhibition took place in London at the Twenty-One Gallery in 1925. Sutherland was an associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers from 1925 until 1933. He taught at the Chelsea School of Art in London from 1928 to 1939, and abandoned engraving for painting in the early 1930s. From the mid-1930s Sutherland made frequent trips to Wales.

His paintings were first exhibited at the Rosenberg and Helft Gallery in London in 1938. At the outbreak of World War II, Sutherland fled to the relative safety of Tetbury in Gloucestershire on the invitation of his friend and patron Kenneth Clark. As a full-time war artist from 1940 to 1945, Sutherland executed numerous official commissions. His first New York exhibition took place at Curt Valentin’s Buchholz Gallery in 1946. The following year Sutherland met Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso during a visit to southern France. Solo shows of his work opened in 1948 at the Hanover Gallery in London and the Buchholz Gallery in New York.

Sutherland visited Italy on the occasion of his solo show at the Venice Biennale of 1952; the exhibition was expanded to constitute a retrospective presented at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris that same year. Another Sutherland retrospective, organized by the Arts Council of Great Britain in 1953, was shown at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Kunsthaus Zürich, and the Tate Gallery in London. The artist began a portrait commission of Sir Wiston Churchill in 1954. From 1955 he divided his time between Venice and Menton, France. Paul Rosenberg and Co. in New York organized a solo show of his work in 1959. Other Sutherland exhibitions were held in 1966 at Marlborough Fine Art in London, and at the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne and the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague in 1967. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York in 1972. Sutherland died in London on February 17, 1980.