Artist Sam Gilliam was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1933. His family moved to Louisville, Kentucky, shortly thereafter. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1951 and master’s degree in 1961 at the University of Louisville. He was in the army from 1956 to 1958. In 1962, he moved to Washington D.C.
He is well known for painting abstract canvases using brilliant colors. His artwork included draping brightly colored cloth on buildings and draping painted canvases.