Leonard Baskin was born on August 15, 1922 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The son of a rabbi, he spent most of his childhood in Brooklyn. At the age of 13 he watched a clay modelling demonstration at a department store and knew then he wanted to be a sculptor. Baskin PhotoHe attended Yale on a scholarship, and it was there he discovered the works of William Blake which gave him the ambition to become an artist, poet, and printer. The idea for Gehenna Press was born.

Baskin left Yale to join the US Navy during World War II. In 1947 he married Esther Tane and in 1950 spent a year in Florence and Paris studying art. This year had a profound effect on him, opening his eyes and mind to the Renaissance artistic traditions and methods. In 1951 he and Esther moved to Worcester, Massachusetts where he taught at the Worcester Art Museum school and began publishing his own woodengravings under the Gehenna Press imprint. In 1953 he began teaching at Smith College. Throughout these years he continued to sculpt and paint along with running the Gehenna Press.

Baskin considered himself first and foremost a sculptor. As he once said, "Although it has been my prints which have won me praise, my [real] and profound concern is for sculpture." His body of work is tremendous, with his most famous sculpture being the Roosevelt Memorial bas-relief in Washington DC.

In 1967 Leonard Baskin divorced his first wife and married Lisa Unger. In 1974 they moved to England. Here they could be closer to the poet Ted Hughes, with whom Baskin had a decades long collaboration and friendship. They inspired each other, Hughes would send Baskin poems which would inspire Baskin to create new woodcuts, and these woodcuts would spark new poems from Hughes. In 1981 the Baskins returned to Leeds Massachusetts, where they remained for the rest of Baskin's life. He continued to run the Gehenna Press and create art. He died in 2000 at the age of 77.

While Baskin considered himself chiefly a sculptor, it is his printmaking that has given him the most attention and fame. His study and use of traditional methods and the years he devoted to mastering and developing these skills resulted in an impressive body of work. Baskin avoided abstraction, preferring to work in the tradition of figurative art. This came out of his belief that the human being was the center of the universe as we know it. As he once stated "man is glorious", and while Baskin often had a bleak view of the world, he believed in the final redemptive power in man. And his art was an attempt to communicate that power.