Milivoj Uzelac was born 23 July 1897 in Mostar, which was then part of Austria-Hungary. In 1903, the family moved to Banja Luka. At the gymnasium there, he started drawing and painting under Pero Popović, a former student of Vlaho Bukovac. There he met fellow artist Vilko Gecan, with whom he developed a lasting friendship. Uzelac's father died in the autumn of 1911, and the following year his mother took Milivoj and his two sisters to Zagreb. In 1912-13, Uzelac, together with Vilko Gecan, attended the private art school of Tomislav Krizman. In November that year, they first encountered the work of Miroslav Kraljević, who was to become a significant influence on the art of their generation. At the age of 16, Uzelac passed the entrance exam for the College for Arts and Crafts, and spent two years studying under Oton Iveković
In 1915, during the First World War, Uzelac moved to Prague where he worked in the studio of the painter Jan Preisler, while attending classes at the Academy. He was later joined by Vilko Gecan, Marijan Trepše and Vladimir Varlaj. Following the end of the war, in 1919 the four returned to Zagreb, where they exhibited their work at the Spring Salon.
In the autumn of 1920, the Artists’ Association allotted Uzelac a studio in Zagreb, where he produced some of his strongest work. In 1921, he spent the early part of the year in Paris, in the Montparnasse area.
In 1923, Uzelac moved to Paris, taking up his residence in the suburb of Malakoff. He painted extensively and absorbed the current ideas of classicism and cubism. He fitted well into his new surroundings, receiving commissions and successfully selling his work. Only one year after his arrival, he entered four paintings into the autumn salon.
By 1925, Uzelac's success led to his first solo exhibition in Paris at the Marguerite library. He was working hard during the day and living a full social life at night. Success brought prosperity, and he socialized with many influential people and collectors, as well as with beautiful women. In 1928, he moved from the suburbs into a studio in town, where Vilko Gecan visited him that summer.
In 1930, Uzelac met Rosemarie da la Rayere, who was to become his permanent model and partner in life.
From 1935 Uzelac increasingly spent time in the south of France, and in 1963, the family moved to Cotignac.
In 1971, the Modern Gallery in Zagreb held a retrospective exhibition of his work. In 2008-9, the Art Pavilion held a posthumous retrospective.
Milivoj Uzelac died on 6 June 1977 in Cotignac, France.