Larry Rivers was born in the Bronx, New York as Larry Grossberg. He changed his name to Larry Rivers in 1940. From 1940-45, he worked as a jazz saxophonist in New York City, and he studied at the Juilliard School of Music in 1945-46.
Rivers took up painting in 1945 and studied at the Hans Hofmann School in 1947-48, and then at New York University. He was a pop artist of the New York School, reproducing everyday objects of American popular culture as art.
He appeared in the 1958 short film, Pull My Daisy and the 1983 film Lovesick.
He was friends with the poet and curator Frank O'Hara with whom he collaborated on an article titled “How To Make a Painting” for the Evergreen Review.
Rivers married Augusta Berger in 1945, and they had two sons. After a divorce, he married Clarice Price in 1961, but they separated in 1967.