Born and raised in Philadelphia, Sidney Goodman studied at the University of The Arts, (formerly the Philadelphia College of Art) earning a degree in 1958. Within the next few years, his bold, figural works would capture national acclaim. In 1961, his debut exhibition in New York was highly received. He was recognized at the age of 27 by Time magazine as being one of the most influential upcoming artists on the scene.
Goodman was one of the most respected figurative artists in America. He participated in and helped shape the return to figuration and realism that occurred in the 1960s. Not one to skirt issues, Goodman’s work tackled heavy concepts. His artistic career started within expressionism and conveying angst within the human condition, then transitioned towards realistic work, and eventually steered towards expressionistic work once more, toward allegory. Goodman explained that his works take on two primary concepts, "One is about shades of ambiguity and clarity. The other is about richness of light and color. The physical and spiritual realms of human experience merge through the forms of light and darkness. The sense of continuity from youth to old age is reflected by a preoccupation with global events. A concurrent theme is the everyday, the routine, the beauty of the commonplace."
Goodman spent over fifty years teaching, first a professor at the University of the Arts from 1960 to 1978, then the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, until 2011. Over the course of his career, Goodman received a number of formal honors, including a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship in 1962, the Hazlett Memorial Award for Excellence in the Arts (Painting) in 1986, and an honorary doctorate from Lyme Academy College of Art in 2006. His work in in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and many more.