Claude-Émile Schuffenecker was born in 1851 in Frèsne Saint-Mamès. His father died when he was only two years old and the same year his brother Amédée was born. Their mother moved with the young brothers to Meudon to be close to her family. Schuffenecker later lived with his aunt and uncle in Paris and studied at the Frères des Ecoles Chrétiennes. He worked at his uncle’s chocolate and coffee-roasting business in Les Halles as well.
Schuffenecker studied with Paul Baudry in Paris in 1870. He then studied the Académie Suisse in 1872 and the Académie Colarossi in 1883, as did his good friend Paul Gauguin. Schuffenecker and Gauguin worked together as brokers at Bertin stock brokerage firm and both left Bertin in 1880 to pursue their artistic careers. They remained good friends throughout their lives, as evidenced by their extensive correspondence.
In 1880, Schuffenecker married his cousin, Louise Lancon and together they had a daughter and a son. In 1882, Schuffenecker applied for studying teaching art and two years later he was teaching drawing at Lycée Michelet in Vanves. He co-founded the Société des Artistes Indépendants in 1884 along with Albert Dubois-Pillet and Odilon Redon, and participated in the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition in 1886.
Schuffenekcer’s work began to sell after Theo Van Gogh curated an exhibition with him, Gaugin and Zandomeneghi at Boussod & Valadon gallery in Paris. Schuffenecker curated an exhibition in the following year at the Café Volpini by the Groupe Impressioniste et Synthésiste, which included works by Gaugin, Bernard, Anquetin and others. In 1896, Schuffenecker had a solo exhibition at Librarie de l’Art Indépendant in Paris, which included seventeen paintings, twenty-one pastels and three drawings. He died in Paris in 1934 and was buried at the Montparnasse cemetery.