Peter Martin Gregor Heinrich Hellberg (later Igael Tumarkin) was born in Dresden, Germany. After completing his military service, he studied sculpture in Ein Hod, a village of artists near Mount Carmel.
Tumarkin was also an art theoretician and stage designer. In the 1950s, Tumarkin worked in East Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris. Upon his return to Israel in 1961, he became a driving force behind the break from the charismatic monopoly of lyric abstraction there. Tumarkin created assemblages of found objects, generally with violent expressionist undertones and decidedly unlyrical color. His determination to "be different" influenced his younger Israeli colleagues. The furor generated around Tumarkin's works, such as the old pair of trousers stuck to one of his pictures, intensified the mystique surrounding him.