Vladimir Tsigal was born in 1917 in Odessa, in a Jewish family. His father Yefim was an engineer. For a time, the Tsigals lived in Penza, where Vladimir attended school. In 1930, they moved to Moscow.
In 1937, Vladimir Tsigal enrolled in the Vasily Surikov Art Institute in Moscow.
Following the outbreak of the Soviet-German War in late June 1941, Tsigal, who had not yet received his diploma, volunteered for frontline duty. He served as a military artist in the navy, and took part in several combat operations of the Black Sea and Baltic Fleets – e.g., the landing in Kerch in the winter of 1941-1942, and the landing in Novorossiysk in September 1943.
In 1945, after the end of the war, Vladimir Tsigal, together with the sculptor Lev Kerbel, was dispatched to Berlin, where the two constructed large-scale monuments to the Red Army soldiers.
When this project was completed, Tsigal returned to Moscow and resumed his studies, which had been interrupted by the war. In 1948, he received a sculptor's diploma, and quickly achieved renown as a monumental sculptor.
In 1949, Tsigal sculpted an image of Lenin as a gymnasium student (a very popular subject in those years), and was awarded the Stalin Prize for it.
Vladimir Tsigal's wartime experiences became a key motif in his oeuvre. He created the sculptural compositions Down with the War! (1960), The Block of Death (1965), Anne Frank (1969), The Military Artist (1973), and many others.
One of his most famous works commemorates Lieutenant-General Dmitry Karbyshev, who died at the Mauthausen concentration camp. The monument was erected at the former camp in 1963, and a copy was installed in Moscow. Tsigal also sculpted numerous portraits of his contemporaries, and his two children feature repeatedly in his work.
Tsigal was a longtime member of the Art Council of the Soviet Ministry of Culture, and of the Soviet Academy of Arts. He also sat on the juries of numerous art exhibitions, taught, and ran an art workshop.
Vladimir Tsigal died in Moscow in 2013, and was buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery.