Joe Keiffer was born in New York in 1952, the son of Edwin Keiffer, also a painter, and Betsy Keiffer, a writer. Before going to college, Joe and his family made several extended trips abroad, spending about a year at a time in Mexico, Rome, Spain and Paris. During college, Joe put in a year at the New York Studio School, as well as two other summer semesters there. After graduating from Brandeis, he took the "Works of Art Course" at Sotheby's, a ten-month course in London, which ended with his employment by Sotheby's in New York as a painting cataloguer/appraiser. He left Sotheby's in 1981 and held various other positions in the art business, and was for four years President of the Spring Creek Art Foundation, a non-profit art collection which owned and loaned important 19th and 20th Century paintings and sculpture. During this period he took every opportunity to continue painting, finally starting to do it full-time in the early 90's. His artisic direction was formed by the New York Studio School, a month spent with friends in Shushan, New York, and his exposure to academic pictorial technique while working at Sotheby's. After a summer semester at the Studio School, where de Kooning, Giacometti and Gorky were the reigning deities, Joe came up to Shushan to spend a few weeks with his family's close friends, the Fairs. Impressed by the beautiful light and landscape all around, he was troubled by the fact that after all the time spent in art classes, he had not learned anything about how to paint what was right in front of him - only styles of abstracting from the visible. In the years which followed, he became very familiar with the work of thousands of pre-Modern artists who had harnessed pictorial technique to their expressive purposes. Joe says that "what little" he knows about painting was learned from looking at older paintings, and he regrets that no one was teaching even the most basic things about representational painting when he was in art school.