Ben Willikens was born in Leipzig in 1939. He studied painting with Heinz Törkes at the State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart in the early 1960s. In 1969, at the age of thirty, Willikens entered a clinic due to poor health. His stay there lasted one and a half years—a life-changing experience that the artist has processed in many of his works. Willikins had his first solo exhibition at the Kunsthalle Tübingen in 1975. In 1977, he became famous around the world with his Leonardo Da Vinci-inspired work, Last Supper, and was appointed as a professor at the Fachhochschule für Gestaltung in Pforzheim the same year. As of 1991, he held the professorship of painting and graphic design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, of which he was also the president from 1999 to 2004.