James Francis Gill was born in Tahoka, Texas in 1934. He attended San Angelo High School. After a tour of duty with the marines, he attended San Angelo College before completing his formal education at the University of Texas in Austin.
From 1956-1960 Gill studied architecture and worked as an architectural designer in Midland/TX and Odessa/TX. From 1960-1961 he studied at University of Texas, Austin/TX on a painting scholarship.
He left Texas in 1962 and moved to Los Angeles, California. The support he received from his first dealer, Felix Landau, was pivotal to Gill’s early entrance into important collections, both private and public. Stars of film and music, art lovers and businesspeople collected artworks of James Francis Gill in the 1960s. Gill was commissioned to paint the covers of well known print media such as the TIME magazine. Hollywood stars like John Wayne and Tony Curtis requested to be painted by him. During his stay in Los Angeles, paintings and drawings were finding their way into the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as many West Coast museums. Major national corporations, such as the Mead Corporation and Time-Life Corporation, were also purchasing his paintings for their collections.
In 1967, the ‘Sao Paulo 9 - Environment United States: 1957-1967’ in Brazil showed Gills works with artists such as Warhol, Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg and Edward Hopper.
This exhibition led to Gills breakthrough in the international art world. His works were included in the collections of major museums. Now, Gill was at the peak of his career, and very popular in the Pop Art scene. But many contemporaries saw a profound and complex sense in his works, expressing more than Pop Art originally intended.
In 1972, Gill went surprisingly into a self-imposed exile, in the expectation of being able to maintain a kind of long-distance relationship with the art scene. He wanted to develop his artistic expression, without the constraints of the material world. Gill never stopped painting, but didn´t show his works to the public until 1995.
His life changed dramatically when the art magazine of the Smithsonian American Art Museum called him up and asked for an interview. This marked the beginning of his rediscovery and brought him to the attention of numerous galleries and museums. Around 1987, Gill started to work with the tools of computer design, using ‘the computer and the printer as a drawing tool’.
In 2005, a retrospective was held in his hometown San Angelo at the Museum of Fine Arts. Around 2007, Gills late creative phase began, in which - in contrast to the dominance of political motives in the early works - Gill increased his focus on the presentation of classic Pop Art icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor, John Wayne, Paul Newman and others.