Scarce information is documented about Albert Wells's childhood, outside of his birth in Augusta, Georgia, to William and Elizabeth Wells. Census records from 1930 note the family’s continued residence in that city, but by the end of that decade, Albert had moved to the state capital of Atlanta, where he was enrolled at Morehouse College. A reciprocal agreement between Morehouse and two nearby historically black colleges—Spelman College and Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University)—allowed students to cross-register for classes on partner campuses. Wells was one of many Morehouse men who studied painting with noted artist Hale Woodruff, the widely respected director of Atlanta University’s art department.

Under Woodruff’s tutelage, Wells became a member of the so-called “Outhouse School,” an informal guild of African American painters known for their landscapes depicting the rural scenery of Georgia. Woodruff encouraged his fellow black artists to transcribe unvarnished details of everyday life in their work, drawing attention, as he told Time magazine in 1942, to “its peculiar run-down landscape, its social and economic problems, [and] the Negro people.” That shared commitment to forthright imagery—including outdoor plumbing—led to the group’s unusual moniker, a pejorative reference perpetuated in that same Time article. This association of painters—which counted Eugene Grigsby and Robert Neal among its members—was also referred to as the “Atlanta School” and hailed by Alain Locke as a “creative school of art expression” that had “already made a distinct and notable contribution to contemporary art development in the South.”

Wells achieved a considerable amount of early success in local, regional, and national exhibitions. While he was a sophomore in college, his painting Winter Landscape was awarded First Prize and a $50 stipend in the 1940 Exhibition of Paintings by Negro Artists hosted by Dillard University in New Orleans. Later that year, Wells exhibited another work in oil, End of Winter, at the Exhibition of the Art of the American Negro held at Tanner Art Galleries in Chicago in conjunction with the American Negro Exposition, a two-month-long celebration of African American history and achievement. He was one of one hundred African American artists featured in this landmark exhibition, which was described by one contemporary critic as “the most representative and comprehensive collection of Negro Art” ever assembled in the United States.” In the spring before his graduation from Morehouse, Wells’s work was shown in the April 1942 Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture, and Prints by Negro Artists in America, the very first of what would become an important annual juried show established by Woodruff and hosted by Atlanta University. He also participated in the third Atlanta University Art Annual, as the presentations came to be known, in 1944.

Wells’s work has been categorized as part of the Southern Regionalist movement. Like many artists of his generation who came of age in Atlanta at this moment, Wells was highly influenced by Woodruff’s instruction and artistic approach. Elements of his mentor’s style—particularly the bright, expressionist color palette and swirling, rhythmic brushstrokes—are evident in Wells’s paintings such as Georgia Snowfall (1944) and the Johnson Collection's untitled still life dating to 1948.

World War II interrupted the trajectory of Wells’s career, as he served in the United States Navy from 1943 through 1945. Following his release from the military in December 1945, Wells moved to Chicago, Illinois, and little is known about his artistic career after this point. He remained there and worked as a teacher in the public school system before his death in 2001.