Sterner was born in London, and attended King Edward's School, Birmingham. After a brief period in Germany, he eventually moved to the United States in 1879 to join his family who had previously moved to Chicago. His brother was the architect Frederick Sterner, who had a career in Chicago and Denver before joining his brother in New York.
He began doing lithography, painting, and illustrations. He opened a studio in New York in 1885 and began doing illustrations for magazines including Harper's Magazine, Scribner's Magazine, The Century Magazine, and Collier's. In 1888 he became a student at Académie Julian in Paris. He returned to the United States in 1918.
Sterner's awards include the Carnegie Prize at the National Academy of Design in 1941.
His New York Times obituary stated that he was perhaps best known for his portraits, but "he was also noted for his nudes, religious subjects, landscapes, still-life work and, in his earlier days, his book and magazine illustrations."
- "Singular Impressions: Albert Sterner". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- "Artist Biography: Albert Sterner". Spanierman Gallery LLC. Archived from the original on 25 September 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Christopher Gray (June 29, 2003). "Streetscapes/The Frederick Sterner House, at 139 East 19th Street; An Architect Who Turned Brownstones Into Gems". The New York Times. Retrieved March 19, 2011.
- "Instructors and Lecturers - Past and Present". Art Students League. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- "Celebrating the Line". Art Students League. Archived from the original on 18 November 2012. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
- "Albert Sterner, Noted Artist, 83; Portraitist, Lecturer, Teacher of Art Is Dead--Won Many Awards at Exhibitions Contributor to Magazines Wrote on Art Subjects". New York Times. 17 December 1946.
- Jules Heller; Nancy G. Heller (19 December 2013). North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-63882-5.
- Flint, Ralph. Albert Sterner: his life and his art (1927)