Born in Youngstown, Ohio in 1932, Ralph Humphrey studied painting at Youngstown University. In 1957, Humphrey relocated to New York, where he met artists Theodoros Stamos and Mark Rothko. Rothko’s fierce opinions and strong, personal passions visually rendered in his paintings were major influences on a young Ralph Humphrey—influences which continually pushed the artist throughout his career. From 1966 to 1990, Humphrey taught painting in the graduate art department at Hunter College. He remained at Hunter until his death in 1990.
During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Humphrey had solo exhibitions at many influential galleries, including: Tibor de Nagy Gallery (1959, 1960, New York), Green Gallery (1965, New York), Bykert Gallery (1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, New York), Texas Gallery (1973, Houston), Daniel Weinberg Gallery (1974, 1976, 1982, San Francisco), John Weber Gallery (1976, 1977, New York), Willard Gallery (1980, 1982, 1984, New York), Daniel Weinberg Gallery (1983, 1986, 1990, Los Angeles), Jay Gorney Modern Art (1987, New York), and Mary Boone Gallery (1990, New York). During this period, his work was also featured in many important museum exhibitions, such as Abstract Expressionists and Imagists (1961, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), Systemic Painting (1965, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), A Romantic Minimalism (1968, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia), A View of a Decade (1977, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago), Painting in Relief (1980, Whitney Museum of American Art), and The Meditative Surface (1984, Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago), among others. More recently, Humphrey’s work appeared in A Minimal Future?: Art as Object, 1958–1968 (2004, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) and High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting, 1967–1975 (2006, Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro).
Humphrey’s work is in the collections of major museums around the world, including: the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Modern Art; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; the Walker Art Center; the Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.