Cagli was born in Ancona, but in 1915 moved with his family to Rome.
In 1927, he made his artistic debut, with a mural painted on a building in Sistina Street. The following year, he made another mural painting, this one in a hall in Vantaggio Street. In 1932, he held his first personal exposition in the "Gallery of Art of Rome." Together with other prominent artists, including Giuseppe Capogrossi and Emanuele Cavalli, he formed the group of the "New Roman School of Painting," better known as Scuola Romana.
In the early 1930s in Rome, although he was very young, Cagli was considered a leading exponent of the upcoming generation of artists. In 1937 and 1938, he exhibited works at the "Comet" gallery in New York.
He enlisted the U.S. Army and was involved in the 1944 Normandy landings, and fought in Belgium and Germany. He was with the forces that liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp, and executed a series of dramatic drawings on that subject.
In 1948, Corrado Cagli returned to Rome to take up permanent residence there. From that time forward, according to his method of multiple search, he experimented in various abstract and non-figurative techniques (neo-metaphysical, neo-cubist, informal). He was awarded the Guggenheim prize (1946) and the Marzotto prize (1954).
He died at Rome in 1976.