Al Held was born on October 12, 1928, in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in New York City during the Depression. His first introduction to art did not occur until 1947 when he was convinced by a friend to join the Art Students League of New York. Soon after, he enrolled at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris to professionally study art, and returned to New York following his graduation. Held’s career grew quickly as several early solo and group exhibitions were highly praised by critics such as Irving Sandler. He also received the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 1966. Additionally, Held taught at the Yale College of Art from 1963 until 1980.