Gert Wollheim was born in 1894, the son of the well-off Jewish industrialist Heinrich Wollheim. In 1900, the family moved to Berlin. After briefly attending the “open-air life-drawing school” of Hans Lietzmann, Wollheim enrolled at the Grand-Ducal Saxon School for Fine Arts in Weimar in 1911. Wollheim became friends with the graphic artist and painter Otto Pankok. In 1919, Wollheim and Pankok joined the Aktivistenbund 1919, an association of left-wing intellectuals in Dusseldorf. In 1920, Wollheim joined the Young Rhineland association, at the heart of which was the gallery known as “Junge Kunst – Frau Ey”, run by Johanna Ey. Together with Arthur Kaufmann and Adolf Uzarski, Wollheim organised the First International Art Exhibition in Dusseldorf in 1922. In 1925 he moved to Berlin and joined the November Group.
In 1933, Wollheim was forbidden from exhibiting, and his works were confiscated. He fled to Paris, where he co-founded the Collective of German Artists. He also had an affair with the Jewish dancer Tatjana Barbakoff. In 1937, his works were included in the exhibition of “degenerate art” in Munich. When war broke out in 1939, Wollheim was arrested and sent to the internment camps of Vierzon, Ruchard, Gurs and Septfonds, though he was able to escape in 1942. He managed to hide in the Pyrenees until the end of the Second World War. His partner Barbakoff was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944. After the war, Wollheim was able to return to Paris. In 1947, he emigrated to New York.