Samy Briss was born on May 18, 1930, in Iași, the then Romanian capital of Moldavia, in a Jewish family from the petite bourgeoisie. His father, Sapsi Briss, worked for the Philips company, and his mother Ester Winter ran a small haute couture workshop. During World War II, he suffered from deprivation but paradoxically acknowledged that institutional antisemitism, which excluded Jewish teachers from schools, high schools, and universities, allowed him to benefit from the best professors.
In 1949, encouraged by his mother, he enrolled in the Bucharest School of Fine Arts, giving up a career as a sports journalist. Between 1950 and 1954, he attended the workshop of painter Camil Ressu and created his first posters and engravings. Between 1955 and 1957, he participated in various graphic art and painting exhibitions. He created theater sets and costumes and worked as an assistant in the scenography class at the Bucharest Theatrical Institute.
In 1957, he exhibited for the first time at the Engraving Triennial in Switzerland, representing Romania. In 1958, Samy Briss, like many Romanian intellectuals, fell victim to the wave of repression organized by the communist regime. His first painting exhibition in Bucharest was banned.
In 1959, Samy Briss left Romania with his family. After a long journey through Europe, he settled in Israel in 1960. There he met the co-founder of the Dada movement, Marcel Janco, and a fruitful and decisive friendship for the rest of his career.
In 1960, he married architect Ruth Schafer, who died in 1980. From 1961 to 1966, he created numerous works for public buildings and Israeli institutions and was invited to the Warsaw International Poster Biennale. In 1967, he exhibited for the first time in Tel Aviv, advised by sculptor Dani Karavan.
From 1968 to 1970, he participated in several group exhibitions in Israel and abroad. In 1971, Samy Briss made his first contact with the Parisian gallery Romanet. The following year, in 1972, he held his first exhibitions in Paris and the United States.
In 1974, Samy Briss settled permanently in Paris. In 1980, he met Dutch painter and sculptor Miriam Speet in Maastricht, whom he married in 1985. The couple had two sons, Boris in 1986 and Simon in 1988.
Since 2013, he has divided his time between Paris and his studio in Chateauneuf-de-Gadagne, in the Vaucluse.
He was named a Knight of the Arts and Letters in 2019.