Pierre Alechinsky was born on October 19, 1927, in Brussels. Alechinsky was interested in graphic arts from an early age and in 1944 he entered the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et des Arts Décoratifs in Brussels, where he studied book illustration and typography. He also painted in a post-Cubist style and later in a manner reminiscent of James Ensor. His paintings of monstrous women were shown in his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Lou Cosyn in Brussels in 1947. That same year he became a member of the Jeune Peinture Belge group.

In 1948 expressionist artists including Karel Appel, Constant, Corneille, Asger Jorn, and Carl-Henning Pedersen formed the CoBrA group. Alechinsky joined CoBrA in 1949 and participated in the first Internationale tentoonstelling experimentele kunst-CoBrA that year at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. He became a central figure in the group and organized its second international exhibition in Liège, Belgium, in 1951. CoBrA disbanded shortly after.

Alechinsky moved to Paris in 1951 to study printmaking with a grant from the French government. He studied engraving with Stanley William Hayter at Atelier 17 in 1952. Around the same time, he became fascinated by Japanese calligraphy and in 1955 he traveled to Tokyo and Kyoto. There he encountered Japanese masters and produced the award-winning film Calligraphie japonaise (1956). In the 1960s Alechinsky traveled extensively in Europe, the United States, and Mexico and participated in numerous international exhibitions. An Alechinsky retrospective organized by the Arts Club of Chicago toured the United States in 1965. In 1976 Alechinsky became the first recipient of the prestigious Andrew W. Mellon Prize for artists. The prize was accompanied by a major retrospective of his work in all media at the Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, in 1977. Alechinsky lives in France.