Angel Zárraga was born in 1886 the son of the physician Dr Fernando Zárraga and his wife Guadalupe Argüelles in the Barrio de Analco of Durango. He attended the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria in Mexico City and the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes. His family helped him to make a study trip to Europe in 1904, where he visited and exhibited in Spain, France, Italy and Belgium. His first exhibitions in Madrid, in 1906 and 1907, were in the independent salons, where his work was recognized first with a ‘mention’ and then with his appointment to the jury of admission. He was granted a government pension by the Mexican government, which he received two years later, and at the age of twenty-one, in 1907, he exhibited thirty of his works in Mexico City, two of which were bought by the government.

In 1909 he showed at the International Exhibition in Munich, and in Florence, in the same year, he held a private solo exhibition, also showing at the Biennale di Venezia. In 1910 he exhibited at the International in Rome and painted a portrait of the Baroness Lombroso in Rome during this year. He sent another group of twenty-five canvases to Mexico in 1910, and sold four to the government and four to private collectors, and painted two portraits. On his return to Europe in 1911 Zarraga went to live in Paris, where he resided almost continuously.

After 1921 his work was influenced by Cézanne and Giotto. He also painted murals at the Château de Vert-Cœur and in the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, and decorated the Mexican embassy in Paris. He also exhibited at the Salon d’Automne, as well as in New York City. As a result of the collapse of the international art market he lost his sponsors and became depressed. During World War II he returned to his home country in 1941, where he painted murals at the Club de Banqueros and in Monterrey Cathedral. He died of pneumonia on September 22, 1946. A museum of contemporary art in Durango is named after him.