Fairfield Porter was a realist painter and art critic. His parents were James Porter, an architect, and Ruth Furness Porter, a poet. Fairfield’s brother was photographer Eliot Porter.
A Harvard grad, his subjects were primarily landscapes, domestic interiors and portraits of family, friends and fellow artists, many of them affiliated with the New York School of writers, including Poets John Ashbery and James Schuyler and novelist Frank O'Hara.
Many of his paintings were set in or around the family summer house on Great Spruce Head Island, Maine (Which they owned) and the family home at 49 South Main Street, Southampton, New York. Porter said once, "When I paint, I think that what would satisfy me is to express what Bonnard said Renoir told him: 'make everything more beautiful."
Eliot Furness Porter was best known for his intimate color photographs of nature. Fairfield Porter introduced his older brother to photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz in about 1930. Stieglitz, after seeing Porter's work, encouraged Porter to work harder.
Porter became interested in color photography after a publisher rejected a proposal for a book on birds because black and white images wouldn't clearly differentiate the species. Porter began working with a new color film, Kodachrome, introduced in 1935, but it presented considerable technical challenges, especially for capturing fast-moving birds. Drawing on his chemical engineering and research background Porter experimented extensively until he was able to produce satisfactory images.