Born in 1924 and raised in Amityville, New York, Richard Mayhew decided at age 17 that he wanted to be an artist. He moved to New York City in 1951, where he studied at the Brooklyn Museum's school of art and was inspired by the painterly freedom of Abstract Expressionism. Subsequently he studied at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Florence. In 1963, he joined Spiral, a group formed to discuss the role of African American artists in the political and cultural landscape of America. In addition to working as an artist, Mayhew has had a long career as an educator, teaching at the Brooklyn Museum, the Art Students League, Smith College, and Pennsylvania State University. He retired in 1991 and moved with his wife to Santa Cruz, California, where he continues to paint.