George Cohen was born in Chicago in 1919. He studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was awarded the Isaacs Scholarship and the Coolbaugh Scholarship. He served as the President of the Art Students League of New York in 1940.
In 1948, Cohen joined the faculty of Northwestern University. He was a founding member of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. In the mid-1950s, he was a part of a “new Chicago School,” which included artists Leon Golub, June Leaf and Cosmo Campoli. Cohen became known in the forties and fifties for his paintings and board constructions with objects and mirrors affixed to them. He is considered a major influence on and harbinger of the Chicago Imagists, as well as an important contributor nationally to developments in painting in the fifties and sixties.
Cohen had many one-person shows and regularly participated in invitational exhibitions. His numerous awards included the Copley Award, the National Foundation of the Arts Award, a Ford Arts Council Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the State of Illinois 150th Anniversary Award. His work can be found in the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Carnegie Mellon Museum in Pittsburgh, the Minneapolis Museum of American Arts and the Hirschhorn Collection in Washington, D.C.