Prentiss Taylor was born in 1907 at the Washington, D. C. residence of his maternal grandmother, his birth assisted by his grandmother's cook, affectionately known as Cookie Belle.
In the 1920s, Taylor studied painting with Charles W. Hawthorne in Provincetown, but turned to lithography in the late 1920s to early 1930s during his enrollment at the Art Students League in New York City. He received further training in that medium at the George C. Miller workshop in New York. During this period, he also designed costumes for the American-Oriental Revue. Taylor worked primarily in the printmaking medium for the rest of his life, experimenting with various techniques and compositions and ultimately achieving a status as one this country's great lithographers. Taylor depicted mostly realistic and narrative scenes of subjects and themes that reflected his personal interests in music, architecture, religion and social justice.
During his time in New York, Taylor developed close friendships with poet Langston Hughes and writer Carl Van Vechten. He collaborated with Hughes in the formation of the Golden Stair Press to produce publications reflecting the ideas of the Harlem Renaissance. Taylor created a number of prints and illustration for the press and its publications.
After returning to Washington, D.C., Taylor's work was included in exhibitions at the Corcoran Gallery, the Smithsonian Institution, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. He was represented by the Franz Bader Gallery in Washington, D.C., and by the Bethesda Art Gallery in Maryland. In 1942, Taylor was elected President of the Society of Washington Printmakers, a position he held for thirty-four years. He also worked as an art therapist for more than thirty years and taught oil painting at American University from 1955-1975.
Prentiss Taylor died October 7, 1991 in Washington, D.C.