Corneliu Baba was born in 1906 in Craiova. He was the third son of Gheorghe Baba, a church painter, and Mathilda Baba. He spent his childhood and adolescence in Craiova and Caransebeş (his father's city) where he abandoned his two passions: music and literature.
In 1926 he moved to Bucharest to enroll in the Academy of Fine Arts and the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy. After only one semester, he dropped out of the Academy of Fine Arts, declaring himself discouraged by teachers and the climate. In 1930 he graduated from the Faculty of Letters and Philosophy, where he had the opportunity to attend courses taught by Nae Ionescu, P.P. Negulescu or Tudor Vianu. He spent the following years in Timişoara, where he came into contact with a group of young progressive and protestant artists whose attitudes and artistic approach were soon abandoned. This period was marked by searches and disappointments, and the desire to go abroad became stronger. In 1934, his first painting exhibition took place, held together with his father, at Băile Herculane. Here he was noticed by an influential lawyer from Iaşi, Omar Popovici. Through him, he moved to the Moldovan city and enrolled in the courses of the Academy of Fine Arts in the class of Professor Nicolae Tonitza. Although he had left for Iasi with the idea of returning in two or three months, Corneliu Baba remained in the capital of Moldova for 16 years. During this time he completed his painting studies and then worked as an assistant and professor at the Academy of Fine Arts.
In a twentieth century shaken by contradictory ideologies, philosophies and aesthetic doctrines, Baba stubbornly remained within the language conventions and codes of representation of classical painting considered obsolete. Among the Romanian artists he was inspired by Grigorescu and Tonitza, and among the Europeans El Greco, Goya and Rembrandt. The main plastic genres approached are: self / portrait, harlequin-crazy king, social portrait, landscape and still life. His works are present in exhibitions in Tokyo or New York, in Beijing or Brussels, in Moscow or Berlin.
Among his most important distinctions are the State Prize for Art (1954) or the Prize for Excellence awarded by the Romanian Cultural Foundation (1997). He was a full member of the Romanian Academy, an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Arts and a corresponding member of the Berlin Academy. Corneliu Baba passed away in 1997, in Bucharest.