Born and raised in Boston, the artist was the granddaughter of Frank Hillsmith, a Boston painter and interior designer. Hillsmith enrolled in the Boston Museum School in 1930. She did a post-graduated year at the Art Students League in New York.
Hillsmith best known as a cubist painter, print maker and collagist. She was influenced by Paul Klee and other artistic heavyweights in New York City in the 1940’s. In 1945, she was asked by Josef Albers to come and teach at a summer session at Black Mountain College.
Hillsmith had one-woman exhibitions from 1943 – 1978. Her work can be found in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; Western Michigan University, Indianapolis Museum of Fine Art and The Smithsonian, among other prestigious institutions.