Martin Bloch was born into a non-observant Jewish family in Neisse, Germany (now Nysa, Poland) 16 November 1883. He initially trained as an architect and later studied drawing in Berlin under Lovis Corinth. He held his first solo exhibition at art dealer Paul Cassirer’s Gallery in Berlin in 1911, then travelled to Paris and to Spain, where he lived between 1914 and 1920, before returning to Berlin to co-found a painting school with Anton Kerschbaumer and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Following the rise of the Nazi Regime and the condemnation of his art as 'degenerate', Bloch left Germany in 1934, moving first to Denmark and then to England, where he settled in London, opening a second painting school with Australian painter Roy de Maistre in 1936. Four of his oil paintings had already been included in the 'Exhibition of German-Jewish Artists' Work: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture' (5–15 June 1934) organised at the Parsons Gallery, London by German-Jewish emigre dealer, Carl Braunschweig (later Charles Brunswick), which included in total 221 artworks by 86 artists suffering persecution under the Nazi regime. His work was included in the notorious 'Entartete Kunst' ('Degenerate Art') exhibition organised by the Nazis in Munich in 1937 and in the important 'Exhibition of Twentieth-Century German Art' at the New Burlington Galleries in 1938, intended as a riposte. He held his first solo London show at the Lefevre Gallery in 1939.

Between 1940 and 1941 Bloch was one of many so-called ‘enemy aliens’ interned, first at Huyton Camp, Liverpool, then briefly on the Isle of Man. Afterwards, he exhibited in Oxford and Cambridge in 1941. He was naturalised in 1947. In 1948 he became a guest teacher in Minneapolis and exhibited in both Minneapolis and Princeton, New Jersey, then resumed his influential teaching career in England, where his fluid style of painting and spontaneous use of colour inspired his students at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts (1949-54). He was a regular exhibitor with Ben Uri Gallery, he joined the hanging committee for the 1948 Spring Exhibition, and held a joint exhibition with Josef Herman at Portman Street in 1949. Bloch was recorded as showing much ‘sturm und drang’ in his work and Michael Podro (Martin Bloch: A Painter’s Painter) records that ‘Irrespective of the size of the paintings or the depth of their frames, Bloch wanted to juxtapose his canvases according to the colour relations, warm against cold. They spent days rearranging them until they were utterly exhausted; Bloch ultimately in despair left the hanging to Herman’. Bloch's work also featured in Ben Uri’s Festival of Britain Anglo-Jewish Exhibition 1851–1951 Art Section, an adjunct to the main Anglo-Jewish Exhibition held at University College in 1951. In the same year he also contributed to the Arts Council exhibition '60 Paintings for 51'. In 1952 he had a solo travelling show in Canada.

Martin Bloch died in London, England on 19 June 1954. A retrospective was held at the Beaux Arts Gallery, London in 1955, the Arts Council organised a touring memorial exhibition in 1957 and a further memorial show was held at Ben Uri in 1963. In 2007, Martin Bloch: A Painter's Painter, was held at the Sainsbury Centre, Norwich. Bloch's work is represented in numerous UK collections including the British Museum, the Government Art Collection and the Tate.