Claire Bretécher was born in Nantes on 7 April 1940. She worked as an art teacher for a short time before taking on illustration assignments for various magazines ("Le Pèlerin", "Rallye-Jeunesse", etc) and later launching her career as a cartoonist. Between 1963 and 1975, she collaborated with the majority of specialist magazines, from "L'Os à Moelle" to "Spirou" and "Le Trombone Illustré", and including "Record, Pilote "and "Tintin". Bretécher created several series, including "Le Facteur Rhésus" (with Goscinny) and "Baratine et Molgaga", "Les Gnan-Gnan" and "Les Naufragés" (with Cauvin).
She co-founded "L'Echo des Savanes" with Gotlib and Mandryka in 1972, going on to create "Les Frustrés", her best-known series, which began appearing in "Le Nouvel Observateur" the following year.
She also turned to self-publishing and released the first "Les Frustrés" collection in 1975. Several other albums followed, such as "Les Mères" (1982), "Le Destin de Monique" (1983), "Docteur Ventouse, bobologue" (1985 and 1986) and the "Agrippine" series (from 1988).
Alongside her career as a cartoonist, Bretécher is also active as a painter.