Corneille was born Guillaume Cornelis van Beverloo on July 3, 1922, in Liège, Belgium. From 1940 to 1943 he studied drawing at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. His first solo show was held in 1946 at Het Beerenhuis in Groningen. Corneille visited Hungary the following year, returning to the Netherlands in 1948 to co-found the Nederlandse Experimentele Groep (NEG), which published the periodical Reflex, and the CoBrA movement, which included Appel, Constant, Christian Dotremont, Asger Jornand, and Joseph Noiret. Returning from travels in North Africa, Corneille participated in the 1949 NEG and CoBrA exhibitions at the Galerie Colette Allendy in Paris and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

In 1950 the artist settled permanently in Paris and began exhibiting at the Salon de Mai. In 1953 He studied etching with Stanley William Hayter in Paris, and ceramics with Tullio Mazzotti in Albisola, Italy, during the summers of 1954 and 1955. Corneille received the Guggenheim International Award for the Netherlands in 1956, the year of his first solo exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. In 1957 he participated in the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in Paris. He traveled extensively during this period, visiting Africa, South America, the Dutch Antilles and the United States.

In 1962 Corneille was given his first solo exhibition in New York at the Lefebre Gallery. During the next four summers he worked on gouaches in the Spanish coastal town of Cadaques. A Corneille retrospective was held at the Musee d'Antibes, France, in 1963. In 1968 he executed mosaics in Vela-Luka, Yugoslavia. Among his many solo shows during the 1970s were those presented at Milan's Galleria d' Arte and the Museu de Arte of São Paulo in 1975, at Galerie Espace in Amsterdam in 1977 and at the Galleria C.M. in Rome and the Galerie Kände Malåra, in Jönköping, Sweden, in 1978. From the late 1970s onwards, his art became more figurative, and his subjects included tropical landscapes and gardens, animals and women. Corneille died in Auvers-sure-Oise, France, on September 5, 2010.