George L. K. Morris was born in New York City. After graduating from Yale University with a degree in English literature in 1928, he studied for one year at the Art Students League under John Sloan, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and Jan Matulka. Some time in the late 1920s, Morris befriended the influential critic and collector, Albert E. Gallatin, with whom he shared strong convictions about abstract art. Through Gallatin he met several members of the School of Paris, including Fernand Léger and Amedée Ozenfant. Morris left for Paris to study with these two modern masters at the Académie Moderne. When he returned to the United States, he was a confirmed abstract painter.
Morris had his first one-man exhibition at the Valentine Gallery, New York, in 1933. He enjoyed an impressive career of gallery and museum exhibitions, including shows at Edith Halpert’s The Downtown Gallery in 1944, 1945, 1948, 1951, 1964, and 1966. He taught at the Art Students League, New York, in 1944–45 and was artist-in-residence at St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland, in 1961–62. He was a founding member of The American Abstract Artists and served as its president from 1948 to 1950. Widely represented in museum collections, Morris won the Temple Gold Medal from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1966, and the Saltus Gold Medal from the National Academy of Design, New York, in 1973.
A perceptive critic and writer as well as painter and sculptor, Morris staunchly defended abstract art in America from the 1930s until his death. He was editor of Miscellany, from 1929 to 1931; Museum of Modern Art Bulletin, from 1935 to 1936; Partisan Review, from 1937 to 1943; Plastique, from 1937 to 1939; American editor of the Parisian Art d’Aujourd’hui, in 1951; and the World of Abstract Art, in 1957. He also served on the Advisory Committee of the Museum of Modern Art, and as curator of the Museum of Living Art, which was founded by Gallatin. Morris was a dedicated collector of modernist works, favoring such artists as Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Piet Mondrian, Ben Nicholson, and Barbara Hepworth.
Morris freely adapted a variety of modernist styles to his own work, resulting in a fresh, synthetic approach to abstraction. Although Morris experimented with a number of modernist styles in his early works, he tended to work within a single mode in each canvas.