Stella was born in Malden, Massachusetts, to parents of Italian descent. After attending high school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, he attended Princeton University, where he majored in history and met Darby Bannard and Michael Fried. Early visits to New York art galleries influenced his artist development, and his work was influenced by the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline.
Stella moved to New York in 1958, after his graduation. He is one of the most well-regarded postwar American painters still working today. Frank Stella has reinvented himself in consecutive bodies of work over the course of his five-decade career. Notably, he is heralded for creating abstract paintings that bear no pictorial illusions or psychological or metaphysical references in twentieth-century painting.