Born in Latvia, on the Baltic Sea, Maurice Sterne lived briefly in Moscow before immigrating to New York. From 1894 to 1899, Sterne attended the national Academy of Design, where he met Alfred Maurer and studied briefly with Thomas Eakins, and had his work first exhibited in 1902 at the Old Country Sketch Club. From 1904 to 1907, Sterne lived in Paris where he saw the art of Cezanne and other French modernists at the Salons d'Automne. He traveled through Europe, then to India and the Far East before settling in his favorite Italian village of Anticoli Corrado, occasionally returning to New York to teach at the Art Students League.
Following an enormously successful exhibition at the Scott and Fowles Gallery in 1926 - an exhibition that established him as one of the foremost artists in America - he returned to New York and established an art school. In 1933, the Museum of Modern Art held Sternes first retrospective. He was later appointed to the National Fine Arts Commission by President Truman in 1945, on which he served until 1951. His paintings reflect his extensive travels as well as various stylistic influences.