Frederick Joseph Ross was born in 1927 in Saint John, New Brunswick. In 1944, he began his art studies with Ted Campbell at the Saint John Vocational School and in 1946 painted a large mural there of the school's annual picnic. Following studies in Mexico in 1949 with Pablo O'Higgins at Taxco, Ross returned to Saint John. In 1950, he briefly visited Mexico again, and met Diego Rivera. In 1970, he resigned his position as Supervisor of Art at the Saint John Vocational School where he had been teaching since the 1950s, to devote his time fully to painting.
His work was displayed at the National Gallery in Ottawa and he was the first New Brunswicker to have an exhibit in the art gallery of the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Since 1949 his work was exhibited in more than 80 solo and group exhibitions. It was the 1993 Beaverbrook Art Gallery retrospective, The Art of Fred Ross - A Timeless Humanism, that secured his reputation nationally.
He was the recipient of Canada Council grants and in 1986 was honored by the University of New Brunswick with the Degree of LL.D. In 1990 he was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. In 2002 he was made a Member of the Order of Canada and praised for his contribution to the "rich social realist tradition of Saint John artists with his vision of Atlantic Canada and its people."He was also inducted into the Order of New Brunswick in 2008 for his "numerous achievements and immense contribution to New Brunswick’s cultural identity and to the province and Canada's art world."
Fred Ross passed away in 2014. His legacy lives on in his work that is represented in countless private, corporate and important public collections, including the National Gallery of Canada.