Eduard Wiiralt was born near St. Petersburg as the son of Estonian parents who worked on a Russian country estate. In 1909 the family moved to Estonia and lived in Tallinn during World War I, where the young artist was educated at the Tallinn Arts and Crafts school.
After finishing school in 1919, he continued his studies at the Pallas art school in Tartu under Anton Starkopf. His first woodcuts and linocuts date back to 1916. He made his first etchings in 1917. During 1922–1923 Wiiralt attended the Dresden Academy of Art in Germany, under professor Selmar Werner. Wiiralt returned to Tartu in the autumn of 1923. During this period he concentrated mostly on book illustrations.
In Paris he created his best-known works: "Hell" (1930–1932), "Cabaret" (1931), "The Preacher" (1932), "Heads of Negroes" (1933), and "Claude" (1936).