Uccello was born Paolo di Dono in Florence in 1397. His nickname 'Uccello' came from his fondness for painting birds. His father, Dono di Paolo, was a barber-surgeon from Pratovecchio near Arezzo, his mother’s name was Antonia. From 1407 was apprenticed to Lorenzo Ghiberti’s workshop, the premier centre for Florentine art at the time, where he began a lifelong friendship with Donatello. By 1424 he was earning his own living as a painter. Around this time he was taught geometry by Manetti.
In 1425 Uccello travelled to Venice, where he worked on the mosaics for the façade of San Marco. Some suggest he visited Rome with Donatello before returning to Florence in 1431. In 1432 the Office of Works asked the Florentine ambassador in Venice to enquire after Uccello’s reputation as an artist. Uccello remained in Florence for most of the rest of his life, executing works for various churches and patrons, most notably the Duomo. If, as is widely thought, he is the author of the frescoes in the Capella dell' Assunta, then he would have visited nearby Prato sometime between 1435 and 1440. In 1445 he travelled to Padua at Donatello’s invitation. In 1465 Uccello was in Urbino with his son Donato, where he was engaged until 1469.
Uccello was married by 1453, because in that year Donato (named after Donatello) was born, and in 1456 his wife gave birth to Antonia. In his Florentine tax return of August 1469 he declared, “I find myself old and ailing, my wife is ill, and I can no longer work.” He died at the age of 78 in 1475 and was buried in his father’s tomb in the Florentine church of Santo Spirito.
His daughter Antonia Uccello (1446-1491) was a Carmelite nun, whom Giorgio Vasari called "a daughter who knew how to draw". She was even noted as a "pittoressa", a paintress, on her death certificate. Her style and her skill remains as mystery as none of her work is extant.