César was born in Marseille, where he studied art before going on to study in Paris from 1943 to 1948. His early work used soldered and welded metal as well as junk materials, and by 1960 César was considered one of France's leading sculptors. In that year he astonished his followers by showing three crushed cars at a Paris exhibition. It was for these 'Compressions' that César became renowned. Like Arman and Jean Tinguely, César was part of the French New Realism movement which found its inspiration in urban life.