Born in Longford in 1939, Charles Cullen studied at the National College of Art and then worked in Spain before returning to Dublin, where he was a founding member of the Project Arts Centre in 1966. He taught at the National College of Art & Design, lecturing in fine art, and served as head of the painting department until 2000.

He has participated in many group exhibitions, including Making Sense, Project Arts Centre (1980); The Delighted Eye, Orchard Gallery, Derry and London (1980); Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin (1984); Living Art, Guinness Hop Store, Dublin (1990) and The Decade Show, Wyvern Gallery, Dublin (1990). Solo exhibitions include the Carroll Gallery, Dublin (1986); David Hendricks Gallery, Dublin (1987) and the Davis Gallery, Dublin (2004). In 1997, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane held a major retrospective of his work. His work is held in the collections of Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane; Allied Irish Banks; Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin; the Arts Council and Trinity College, Dublin. Charles Cullen is a member of Aosdána.