As stipulated by the artist in his will (1978), the Clifford Still Museum opened its doors in Denver, more than thirty years after the death of the artist. Its collection represents 95 percent of the artist’s lifetime output, including about 3,125 works created between 1920 and 1980.
Clyfford Still (1904–1980) belonged to the first generation of American Abstract Expressionist artists (Philip Guston, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko) who developed a new approach to painting after 1945.
Still was born in 1904 in Grandin (North Dakota), studied and taught in Washington State , (Spokane and Washington State University) until he moved to the San Francisco Bay area in 1941 staying the decade, first working in various war industries, while continuing to paint. His first solo exhibition was at the San Francisco Museum of (Modern) Art in 1943. That year he met Mark Rothko. who introduced him to Peggy Guggenheim. She showed Stills work at her ‘The Art of This Century’ Gallery at the endow 1946. Upon closing her gallery in 1947 Rothko, Still and other Abstract Expressionists, joined the Betty Parsons gallery. During the height of Abstract Expressionism movement in the fifties Still lived in New York. Never comfortable with the commercial site of art, Still severed all contact with galleries and as a consequence, nearly all of his work remained with him. In 1961 he moved to Maryland with his second wife Patricia , where he lived until his death in 1980.
After that about 2,400 artworks (825 paintings on canvas and 1575 works on paper — drawings and limited-edition fine-art prints) were cut off completely from view, due to Stills will, requesting that, besides the legacy he had bequested to his wife, the whole estate should be given to an American city that would be willing to build permanent quarters, solely for this purpose, where is his work would well be taken care of, always exposed, accessible for study and never to be sold.
In August 2004, the City of Denver, Colorado announced it had been chosen by Patricia Still to receive the Clyfford Still Estate. After her death in 2005 the remaining part of the legacy, works of art and all the archives joined the Stills Estate in Denver,
The two-story, 28,500-square-foot building in which the the independent non profit organization Clyfford Still Museum is housed, was, designed by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture and opened in November 2011.