Paul Keene was born in 1920 in Philadelphia. His early years at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art (now University of the Arts; from 1939-41) and later his study at the Académie Julien in Paris (1948-52) were grounded in the traditions of the great European masters.
Keene was part of an important group of Philadelphia painters who helped to tell the stories of African Americans through imagery that combined ancient cultural traditions with a distinctly modern, urban point of a view. These artists explored personal narratives as well as the stories of the city and its inhabitants. In his work, Keene has created new icons of black urban life with his anonymous portraits of jazz musicians, and documented the movement and vitality of city life.
Keene himself has said of his approach to painting: "I simply need to find the means by which I can render visible my vision of my inner world, as well as my visual interaction with urban anxieties."
Color serves as the compositional key in the works of painter Paul Keene, who works primarily with acrylic paints on paper. His window scenes and landscape studies demonstrate his skillful manipulation of scale, color, light, and atmosphere. Keene often utilizes grid compositions, juxtaposed against the concentric circles of radiating color which he considers his "unconscious" personal symbol.
Keene taught painting and drawing at Bucks County Community College from 1968 to 1985, serving as the Art Department Chairperson for three years. He has exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the James A. Michener Art Museum, the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Keene has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards.