Scully was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1945 but was raised in London, where his family moved in 1949. He attended classes at London's Central School of Art (1962–1965) and at Croydon College of Art (1965–1968) and received a bachelor's degree from Newcastle University in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1972. That year, he traveled to the United States for the first time for a one-year residency at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. He moved to the United States in 1975, settling in New York City. He taught at Princeton University from 1977 to 1982 and was a professor at Parsons School of Design in New York City from 1981 to 1984. In 1983, the year he became a U.S. citizen, Scully received a Guggenheim Fellowship and an artist fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Scully was nominated in 1989 and in 1993 for the Turner Prize that is presented annually by the Tate Gallery in Britain. His paintings, prints, pastels and photographs have been exhibited internationally, and his work is in the permanent collections of some of the leading museum in the U.S. and Europe. Scully maintains studios in New York City, Barcelona, Spain; and Munich, Germany.
Smithsonian American Art Museum "Smithsonian American Art Museum Presents Selections from Its Master Set of Prints by Sean Scully, the Only Set in a U.S. Museum" (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian American Art Museum, press release, May 1, 2007)