Giacomo Balla was born in Turin on July 18, 1871. In 1891 he studied briefly at the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti and the Liceo Artistico in Turin and exhibited for the first time under the aegis of the Societa Promotrice di Belle Arti in that city. He studied at the University of Turin with Cesare Lombroso about 1892.
In 1895 Balla moved to Rome, where he worked for several years as an illustrator, caricaturist, and portrait painter. In 1899 his work was included in the Venice Biennale and in the Esposizione internazionale di belle arti at the galleries of the Societa degli Amatori e Cultori di Belle Arti in Rome, where he exhibited regularly for the next ten years.
In 1900 Balla spent seven months in Paris assisting the illustrator Serafino Macchiati. About 1903 he began to instruct Gino Severini and Umberto Boccioni in divisionist painting techniques.
In 1903 his work was exhibited at the Esposizione internazionale d’arte della citta di Venezia and in 1903 and 1904 at the Glaspalast in Munich. In 1904 Balla was represented in the Internationale Kunstausstellung in Düsseldorf, and in 1909 exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in Paris. Balla signed the second Futurist painting manifesto of 1910 with Boccioni, Carlo Carra, Luigi Russolo, and Severini, although he did not exhibit with the group until 1913.
In 1912 he traveled to London and to Düsseldorf, where he began painting his abstract light studies. In 1913 Balla participated in the Erste deutsche Herbstsalon at Der Sturm gallery in Berlin and in an exhibition at the Rotterdamsche Kunstkring in Rotterdam. In 1914 he experimented with sculpture for the first time and showed it in the Prima esposizione libera futurista at the Galleria Sprovieri, Rome.
He also designed and painted Futurist furniture and designed Futurist "antineutral" clothing. With Fortunato Depero, Balla wrote the manifesto Ricostruzione futurista dell’universo in 1915.
His first solo exhibitions were held that same year at the Societa Italiana Lampade Elettriche "Z" and at the Sala d’Arte A. Angelelli in Rome. His work was also shown in 1915 at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. In 1918 he was given a solo show at the Casa d’Arte Bragaglia in Rome. Balla continued to exhibit in Europe and the United States and in 1935 was made a member of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome.
He died on March 1, 1958, in Rome.