He was born in Verona in a family of industrial workers. In 1923 he moved to Milan where he formed an avanguardist group with other artists such as Renato Guttuso, Giacomo Manzù and Aligi Sassu. In 1937 he was a member of the artistic movement called Corrente. In the same year he was arrested by the Fascist government: in the following years he largely left the painting activity to devote himself to the Communist propaganda and, later, to the support of the partisan resistance. After World War II, in 1947, Birolli moved to Paris. Here his painting style changed swiftly under the influences of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, moving first to a post-Cubist position and then to a somehow abstract form of lyrism. He died suddenly at Milan in 1959.