Marc Klionsky was born in Minsk, Byelorussia, now Belarus. He lived for nearly fifty years in Soviet Russia. As a child, he attended the Art School for Gifted Children and the Kazan Art School, then attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Leningrad. His diploma piece was reproduced in an edition of 50,000 copies. Klionsky also conducted postgraduate studies with Professor Boris Ioganson and became the youngest artist to be exhibited at the Tretiakovsky Gallery in Moscow.
His early work reflected the tumult of the Nazi invasion and anti-Semitism. His paintings were subsequently exhibited throughout the Soviet Union; in Europe, including Rome, Florence, Barcelona, Berlin, Lausanne, Prague, and the Grand Palais in Paris; as well as in China, Israel, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
Escaping with his family in 1974, first to Rome and then to New York, Klionsky then expressed in his work the freedom he found. He achieved international recognition in an ABC television production about his art, Canvas of Freedom. This was followed by a United States Information Agency documentary shown in ninety-two countries about one of his many exhibitions at Hammer Galleries.
Klionsky gained worldwide prominence as a master of portrait painting. His works include portraits of leaders in the world of politics, such as Golda Meir, Vernon Jordan, and Elie Wiesel; music, including Mstislay Rostropovich, Dizzy Gillespie, and B.B. King; business leaders Armand Hammer, Malcolm S. Forbes, Jr., and Dwayne Andreas; and many others. His portraits are in the permanent collections of The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lausanne, Switzerland. A book on the life and art of Marc Klionsky, by John Russell, was published in 2004.