Henri Edmond Cross was born in Douai and grew up in Lille. At the age of 10 he took drawing and painting lessons under Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran in Lille; he later studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1878 under Alponse Victor Colas. In 1881 he moved to Paris, travelling to the South of France in 1883, a trip that awakened his enthusiasm for landscape painting.
His early works, portraits and still lifes, were in the dark colours of realism, but after his trips to the South of France, and influenced by the Impressionists - in particular Claude Monet whom he met in 1883 - he developed an Impressionist style of painting. In 1884 he co-founded the Societe des Artistes Independants and through it became acquainted with many of the Neo-Impressionists. In 1891, he was elected Vice-President of the Societe des Artistes Independants by which time he had become one of the principal exponents of Neo-Impressionism. His later works are Fauvist, perhaps influenced by his acquaintance with Henri Matisse.
The comparatively small size of Cross's oeuvre can be partly attributed to his ill health. Nonetheless, during the last decade of his life he mounted important one-man shows in Paris at Galerie Druet, in1905 and at Bernheim-Jeune in 1907.
His work is held in many public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, (New York), Musee de Grenoble (Grenoble, France), Musee d'Orsay (Paris), the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), New Art Gallery (Walsall, England), Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (Madrid) and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.