Born to a furniture maker, Hugnet started his artistic career exhibiting at the International Exhibition of Surrealism in 1938. He screenplayed the avant-garde film La Perle and wrote the Dada Spirit in Painting with the support of Tristan Tzara. After meeting André Breton, he joined the Surrealist group and wrote Petite Anthologie poétique du Surréalisme in 1934. He set up a bookbinding atelier, Le Livre-Object, collaborating with many artists to create illustrations to marry up his poetry. His work often interpreted eroticism and female nudity.
He created the poem-collage, combining found illustrations with newspaper texts, such as La Septieme Face du dé, with a cover designed by Marcel Duchamp. He founded the review L’Usage de la parole and published a photomontage novel Huit jours à Trébaumec.