César Baldaccini was born in Marseilles in 1921 to Italian parents. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Marseilles from 1935 to 1939 and then enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. César moved permanently to Paris in 1943 and lived above the studio of Alberto Giacometti, where he met Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, and Jean Paul Sartre.

In 1952 he began to make sculptures by welding pieces of scrap metal together and first gained a reputation for his solid welded sculptures of insects, various kinds of animals, nudes, etc. Cesar’s first major solo show was held at the Salon de Mai in Paris in 1955. The entire show sold out and he was invited to participate in the Venice Biennale in 1957. In 1960 he created his first Compressions, created by compressing cars into dense packages. Later the same year Baldaccini joined the Nouveaux Réalistes group with Arman, Yves Klein, Martial Raysse, Pierre Restany, Jean Tinguely, and others.

By 1966 Baldaccini had dropped metal in favor of expanding plastics. From 1967 to 1970 he organized a series of happenings in which he produced expansions in the presence of an audience. His later works also include sculptures made out of molten crystal. In 1982, retrospectives of his work were organized by the Musée d’Art Moderne in Lieges, the Espace Niçois d’Art et de Culture in Nice, and the Seibu Foundation and Ottara Museum in Japan. In 1995 he participates in the Venice Biennale. Baldaccini died in Paris on December 6, 1998.