Sheffield van Buren was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A graduate of Marlboro College (B.A., painting) where he studied with Wolf Kahn and Frank Stout, he also studied drawing with Pietro Annigoni in Florence, and painting and sculpture with Wayne Thiebaud, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Larry Zox, and Jason Seeley at Cornell University.

Early in his career he was featured in Arts Canada for his participation in a show of American and Canadian artists that included such notables as Eva Hesse and Agnes Martin.  His work is in the permanent collections of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University and the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, and in private collections throughout the United States.

Sheffield has taught in the Boston Public Schools, at Harvard University School of Visual Studies, and in the Advanced Painting Program at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.