Leo Davy was born in 1924 in Shipley, Yorkshire, the seventh of nine surviving children to an art teacher and painter father and a mother who was the daughter of a painter. At the age of just ten he won a national drawing competition and in 1939 he studied at the Kingston School of Art, under Reginald Brill, before moving on the Slade School of Fine Art between 1942 and 1945, then evacuated to Oxford due to the Blitz, where he studied alongside such future stars as Kyffin Williams. Davy was included in a mixed summer show at the important contemporary gallery Gimpel-Fils in 1950 alongside avant-garde artists of the day, including Patrick Heron, William Gear, Alan Davie and William Scott.
Davy was strongly dedicated to the development of abstraction. It was through his panel paintings and works on paper that he reduced and refined scenes of everyday life into his own carefully considered abstract vision, applying thinck paint and washes to form blocks of colour, often quite angular. He settled in a dilapidated cottage in North Cornwall in 1968 with his wife, where he lived and worked until his sudden death in 1987. Davy was a self-imposed outsider, as David Duncan remembers: Davy was 'a man of very few words, in fact would only speak if spoken to'. Although Davy's main intent was to isolate himself and to follow an independent line of philosophical enquiry through his painting, his art was an essential means of communication to the rest of the world. As Davy proclaimed in 1946, at the age of 20, 'I only want to paint what only I can paint.'