Ary Stillman was born in Hresk, Russia (now Belarus). He came to the United States in 1907 to join his family in Sioux City. He began painting in 1908 and worked at the Royal Jewelry Company. In 1919 he traveled to New York to study at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League. After moving to Paris in 1921, Stillman returned to the United States briefly in 1929 to attend one-person exhibitions in cities across the country, including Sioux City. He returned from Europe permanently in 1933, settling in New York. During the decade following World War II, he moved to abstraction and exhibited his work in major museums across the country. At the height of his career, he left New York, moving to Mexico and then to Houston.