He was the son of a coal miner and was born in a mining region. He settled in Paris in 1927 and worked in an automobile factory for Renault Citroen, while at the same time taking night classes in painting and sculpture.
In 1931 he joined the Union of Revolutionary Painters and Writers where he met Louis Aragon, Andre Malraux, Fernand Leger, Jean Helion and Francis Gruber.
His production of personal work began two years later. In 1936 he met Picasso and the following year the exhibition of Guernica at the International Exhibition of Paris would make a strong impression on him and influence his work.
During the Nazi occupation he became deeply involved in the Resistance in the National Front of the Arts. In May 1941 he exhibited with a group of 20 artists at the Braun Gallery. The strong colors which dominated their works and the practically abstract nature of the compositions were an open provocation to the conqueror. After the Liberation these artists became known as the post-war School of Paris.
His first solo exhibition was held in 1939 and was presented by Gromaire; it was followed by many others.
Starting in 1947 he began to dissociate himself from Socialist Realism which had been adopted by the Communist Party, and at the same time took a stance against painting which had begun to dominate French painting.
In 1951 Picasso suggested they work together to the produce of pottery at Valloriz, keeping him busy for the next two years, at the same continuing with a series of works. Oliviers and Paysans. During the period of his cooperative endeavors with Picasso, he also started the series Maternites and L’ Homme a l’ Enfant.
The subject matter of his works was influenced by his political activity in the service of which he had placed his work. At the end of the Sixties he was involved with the subject of war, though later he turned toward nature. He was involved with stage and costume design and the making monumental sculptural works of day.
He adopted a variety of technique, while in the closing years of his life he turned almost exclusively to water-colors. Though he considered abstract painting to be a denial of reality, in his later work there are many abstract elements. His work occupies an important place in post-war-French painting.