At age sixteen, he went to Kiev and enrolled in the fine arts school. To pay his tuition, he ran a lottery that raised enough money for him
to continue. Able to afford only a small alcove, he slept on a chest of drawers. Eventually, he was rescued by a relative of his mother, who gave him a monthly allowance and introduced him to the Danish consul, a Jew, who provided Mane-Katz with a place to stay in the consulate.
In 1913 his two patrons gave him money to go to Paris where he entered the Ecole des Beaux Arts. When World War I broke out, he was rejected by both the French and Russian armies because he was too small. Mane-Katz then moved to Saint Petersburg, where he received a scholarship to the modernist art academy of Countess Gazarina.
The cubist tendencies of this school influenced his subsequent work. In 1917 he taught for a time in the countess’s academy. When the Bolsheviks entered Kharkov, they opened an academy of art and Mane-Katz was named a professor there. The academy closed in 1920 and he decided to return to Paris.
In Paris, Waldemar George helped to organize his first exhibition of forty-one paintings in 1923. In the introduction to the catalogue, George wrote that Mane-Katz's work was always eloquent, and that he moved the viewer by his sense of style and the variety of his vocabulary. From then on, Mane-Katz’s work was accepted by the Salon d’Automne regularly and he also exhibited in the Salon des Independents and the Salon des Tuileries.
In 1928 he made his first visit to the Middle East, returning to Palestine in 1934. Confronted by its light, his color suddenly burst into brlliant reds, oranges, and yellows. His painting At the Wailing Wall (1937) received a gold medal at the International Art Exhibition in Paris. Later, the artist donated it to the president of the new State of Israel.
When the Nazis occupied Paris in 1940, Mane- Katz took refuge in the United States, where he worked for Free France and was a member of France Forever. In 1945 he was one of the first artists to return to Paris from the United States.
His ties to the Paris Jewish community were close and he was interested in Jewish affairs both in France and abroad. He collected Jewish artifacts and his home was full of tablets of the Law, candlesticks, and lions of Judah. On his windows and spread over his bed were ark curtains. In ¡949 the Jewish painters and sculptors in Paris organized a union called Amanoth, of which Mane-Katz was president.
France made him chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1951 and an officer of the Legion in 1962. The French government also purchased his painting, Place de la Concorde, for the Paris Museum of Modern Art.
After the war, he continued to visit Palestine and, during the 1948 War oflndependence, went to Tel Aviv with an exhibition of sixty paintings. In 1957 the city of Haifa invited him to live in a house and studio that they would provide for him, and thereafter he divided his time between Haifa and Paris. He died in Israel and is buried in Haifa.