Born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1926, Jack Youngerman studied at the Universities of North Carolina and Missouri. In 1947–48 he studied painting at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he continued to live and paint until 1956. He admired the work of Henri Matisse and the purity and discipline of Piet Mondrian's paintings.
By 1954 he had developed strong positive and negative forms, frequently organic, that exploded from a nuclear area in the center or side of the frame. His shapes subsequently became diagonal or fanlike, and colors were used as electric accents or in brilliant combinations. Youngerman later worked with black as if it were color. The sharp edges and clean contours make the shapes look like Matisse cutouts, although there is a uniformity of concept suggesting a dynamic shifting of space.
After a number of exhibitions in Paris and designing a stage set for the French actor/director Jean-Louis Barrault, Youngerman returned to New York City. His paintings were first exhibited in New York in 1958 and have been included in major international exhibitions. In the early 1970s Youngerman also began to exhibit his stainless-steel sculpture and wooden cutouts.