Ernest Briggs was born in San Diego in 1923, where he spent his childhood and formative years until joining the Army in WWII. After returning from the war, he studied painting under Clyfford Still (a first generation Abstract Expressionist who some credit with sparking the movement) at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. He also took courses lead by Mark Rothko and Ad Reinhardt, all of whom had an impact on the young Briggs’ style.
In 1953, he relocated to New York and continued to work there – eventually accepting a teaching job at Pratt Institute in 1961. As a member of the second generation of Abstract Expressionists, some others being Norman Bluhm and Sam Francis, Briggs helped to propel the movement forward in a relatively modest way. His creative process sometimes involved hammering out watercolors on paper and then using those as inspiration for bigger oil paintings – they were not exact recreations, but more like the first phase of execution. The images develop out of the process and often incorporate a motif – in the mid-70’s, a recurring motif used in his work was a type of gateway, as well as figural elements like a torso or head shape.