Joseph Stella was born in Muro Lucano, Italy, and moved to New York City in 1896. He attended the Art Students League under William Merritt Chase and made a name for himself in the early 1900's as a social-realist illustrator.
From 1909 to 1912, he was in Europe and associated with the modernists including Matisse and Modigliani. He was greatly influenced by fauvism, cubism, and futurism and made a radical change to a more abstract style.
Stella returned to New York to exhibit several paintings in the 1913 Armory Show. Stella, along with recent New York arrivals Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, became associated with the Walter and Louise Arensberg group.
From 1927 to 1934, he was in Rome and Paris, and in 1940 traveled to the West Indies. Although most of his Futurist paintings were done between 1912 and 1923, he continued to reinterpret those subjects until his death in 1946.
His work is included in the collections of most major American museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.