Born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1910, Paul Feeley studied painting at Menlo College, Menlo Park, California and the Art Students League. After completing his training, Feeley began teaching, first at Cooper Union (1935–1939) and later at Bennington College. The artist remained at Bennington for 27 years (1939–1966) and founded its celebrated art department. Committed to the art of his peers, Feeley exposed his students—among them, Helen Frankenthaler—to many of the most significant artists of his time. In addition, while at Bennington, he organized the first retrospective exhibitions of Hans Hoffmann, Jackson Pollock, and David Smith.
Feeley’s early work was both intensely formal and technically innovative. Although classically derived, his paintings from this period are looser, more gestural, and less emblematic than his better-known work from the mid-1960s. In later paintings, the forms gradually solidify and become more evocative of real life experiences. Simple shapes, which at the same time seem both poised and exuberant, are Feeley’s hallmark. Between 1962 and 1966 he created a series of paintings of jacks, which was uniquely suited to his ongoing interest in seriality and repetition, one shared by many Minimal and Pop artists but comparatively few of his color field "peers."
Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Feeley had solo exhibitions at many prominent institutions, including: Tibor de Nagy Gallery (1954, 1955, 1958, New York), Betty Parsons Gallery (1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1970, 1971, 1975, New York), and Kasmin Gallery (1964, London). During this period, his work was also featured in important museum exhibitions, such as Post Painterly Abstraction (1964, Los Angeles County Museum of Art), The Shaped Canvas (1964, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), The Responsive Eye (1965, Museum of Modern Art), and Systemic Painting (1966, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), among others. In 1968, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum mounted a memorial retrospective exhibition of his work. A full-careeer retrospective of Feeley’s work recently took place at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (2014–2015, Buffalo) and the Columbus Museum of Art (2015–2016), accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.
Feeley’s work is featured in the collections of major museums around the country, including: the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Baltimore Museum of Art; Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; the Columbus Museum of Art; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Fogg Museum, Harvard University; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St. Louis; the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Buenos Aires; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Modern Art; the Neuberger Museum of Art, State University of New York, Purchase; the Phoenix Art Museum; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.