After the Spanish Civil War and a period of transition, Rafael Canogar and his family took up residence in Madrid in 1944. He began his training with painter Daniel Vázquez Díaz, with whom he mastered a figurative language inspired by the work of Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. In 1954 Canogar began to experiment with abstraction and informalism, motivated by Michel Tapié’s call for a collective art phenomenon. His canvases, increasingly monochromatic, sought to achieve a balance between form and matter, between formal and informal painting. Within this trajectory he formed the group El Paso (1957–1960) alongside Luis Feito, Manolo Millares, Manuel Rivera and Antonio Saura among others, which ushered in a key phase in the modernization of the Spanish avant-garde. Following a trip to the USA in the early 1960s, and a peak in his international recognition in 1964, Canogar abandoned informalism, which had become assimilated by Francisco Franco’s regime as ‘official’ art.
In 1958, he was selected for the international exhibition in Pittsburgh and for the Alexandria Biennial. In 1965, he was invited by Mills College in Oakland to hold various artistic workshops. Beginning in 1976, he returned to abstraction, yet distinct from the movement in the 50's. In 1987, Canogar organised two large exhibitions of his work in Germany and Paris. In 2001, the Reina Sofía National Art Museum held a broad retrospective of his work. His most recent pictorial expressions abandon figures in favor of color.