Vittorio Tavernari was born in Milan, Italy, on September 28, 1919. The son of an art conservator, Tavernari started his training under Francesco Wildt at the Scuola del Marmo (1935-1938), where he befriended Bruno Cassinari, Umberto Milani, Ennio Morlotti and Ernesto Treccani. While serving his military service—between 1939 and 1943—he was destined to Varese and Como, where he met Mario Radice and the caffè Ribecchi group: Giuseppe Terragni, Pietro Lingeri and Manlio Rho. During his sojourn in Como, Tavernari shared a small studio with his friend Morlotti and associated with the Astrattisti. In 1944 he moved permanently to Varese and married Piera Regazzoni. Their house became a popular gathering spot for writers and artists such as Piero Chiara and Renato Guttuso. Even though he lived in Varese he kept in close contact with the artistic circles of the metropolis, becoming one of the founding members of the magazine Numero (1945), signing the manifesto Oltre Guernica and collaborating with the newspaper L’Ordine Nuovo. His first solo exhibitions took place at the Galleria del Camino (1948) and Galleria del Milione (1951), both in Milan.

In 1948 he travelled to France to see the œuvre of Pablo Picasso and in 1949 he was awarded the Sculpture Prize Città di Varese. In 1954 he received another prize at the Esposizione Nazionale d’Arte Figurativa, Spoleto, and a year later he exhibited his works at the Quadriennale, Rome. Between 1948 and 1952 he experimented with abstraction before returning to figurative sculpture; his naturalism, however, was permeated by Informel aesthetics.

In 1960 Tavernari won the Premio Rancati and a year later he had his first one-man show in Paris. Also, in 1961 he took part in collective exhibitions in Tokyo, Gothenburg, Oslo, Padua, Pittsburgh, Dresden and Bucharest. In 1962 he was awarded the Golden Medal of the President of the Republic at the Esposizione Nazionale di Arte Figurativa, Spoleto. In 1964 Tavernari was admitted as a member of the UNESCO International Association of Art. In successive years his work was exhibited at the Venice Biennale (1964), at the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea di Milano (1969) and at an important retrospective at the Musée Rodin, Paris (1973). In 1974 he was invited to show his work at the Musei Civici di Villa Mirabello, in Varese, and thenceforth he was given several solo exhibitions in other Italian cities—Rimini, Prato, Turin and Lucca. Tavernari died in Varese on October 29, 1987.