Born in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, to a religious Jewish family, Mané-Katz is known for his landscapes, still lifes, and scenes of Jewish shtetl life and folklore. He attended the fine arts school of Kyiv, and studied in Vilnius, before going to Paris and attending the École des Beaux-Arts, where he was a student under painter Fernand Cormon (1845–1924) and alongside Chaïm Soutine (1893–1943). Mané-Katz returned to Eastern Europe at the outbreak of World War I and studied at the New Art Workshop in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg). He was appointed a professor at the School of the Arts and Crafts in Kharkiv in 1917. In 1921, he moved once again to Paris, where he would become associated with the “School of Paris,” a group of (usually) non-French artists who flocked to the city in the early twentieth century to live, work, and exchange creative ideas, the leading figure of which was Pablo Picasso (1881–1973). Beginning in this period his work focused on Jewish life, ritual, and figures of the shtetl, for which he is best known.
Mané-Katz traveled widely in the Middle East and Eastern Europe from the late 1920s until the late 1930s. His painting The Wailing Wall was awarded a gold medal at the Paris World’s Fair in 1931. In 1939, he volunteered for the French army but was taken prisoner by the Germans; he escaped to the United States, where he remained until the end of the war. He returned to Paris in 1945, where he kept a studio in Montparnasse, and in the years after traveled widely and exhibited in many countries, including an exhibition of his work at the Tel Aviv Museum during the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. In 1951, Mané-Katz was named Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by the French government for his artistic contributions. He officially immigrated to Israel in 1957, following an agreement with the mayor of Haifa that he would bequeath his estate and works to the city of Haifa upon his death, in exchange for a house and following his death a permanent museum of his work. Thus, today his work is included in the collections of the Mané-Katz Museum of Haifa, Israel, as well as the Tate and the Museum of Modern Art.