Tal-Coat's birth name was Pierre Louis Jacob. He was born in Brittany, a fisherman's son, and came to Paris in 1924. He chose the surname Tal-Coat (Breton for 'Wood Face') to avoid being confused with the artist and poet Max Jacob. Tal-Coat was one of the most imprtant figures in the post-war School of Paris. One of the founders in the mid-forties of Tachisme, a lyrical abstract movement that was the French version of Abstract Expressionism, his paintings were acclaimed and admired by fellow artists such as André Masson. He also wrote on painting. His etchings and lithographs encapsulate the essence of his minimalist paintings.
Tal-Coat was awarded the Grand-Prix National des Arts in 1968. From 1954 onwards, he was primarily represented by the Galerie Maeght, Paris, and was the subject of a number of issues of the deluxe art review, Derrière le Miroir. A retrospective of his work was held at the Grand Palais, Paris in 1976. Tal-Coat has had a museum named in his honour, the Galerie Pierre Tal-Coat in Hennebont, Brittany. He died in Saint Pierre de Bailleul in Normandy in 1985.