Born Chaim Jacob Lipchitz on August 22, 1891 of Jewish origin in Druskininkai, Lithuania, he studied engineering before moving to Paris in 1909 to study at the École des Beaux-Arts and the Académie Julian.
Living in this environment, Lipchitz soon began to create Cubist sculptures. In 1912 he exhibited at the Salon National des Beaux-Arts and the Salon d’Automne with his first one-man show held at Léonce Rosenberg’s Galerie L’Effort Moderne in Paris in 1920. In 1922 he was commissioned by the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania for five bas-reliefs.
With artistic innovation at its height, in the 1920s he experimented with abstract forms he called transparent sculptures. Later he developed a more dynamic style, which he applied with telling effect to bronze figure and animal compositions.
With the German occupation of France during World War II, and the deportation of Jews to the Nazi death camps, Jacques Lipchitz had to flee France. With the assistance of the American journalist Varian Fry in Marseille, he escaped the Nazi regime and went to the United States. There, he eventually settled in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. In 1954 a Lipchitz retrospective traveled from The Museum of Modem Art in New York to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and The Cleveland Museum of Art. In 1959, his series of small bronzes "To the Limit of the Possible" was shown at Fine Arts Associates in New York.
Beginning in 1963 he returned to Europe where he worked for several months of each year in Pietrasanta, Italy. In 1972 his autobiography was published on the occasion of an exhibition of his sculpture at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.