Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin was born on 1 March 1810, according to the statements of the artist himself and his family, but according to his baptismal certificate, which was written several weeks after his birth, the date was 22 February. His birthplace was the village of Zelazowa Wola near Sochaczew, in the region of Mazovia, 60 km west of Warsaw. The manor-house in Zelazowa Wola belonged to Count Skarbek, and Chopin's father, Mikolaj (Nicolas) Chopin, a Polonized Frenchman, was employed there as a tutor. He never returned to France and did not retain contacts with his French family but brought up his children as Poles.
In 1806, Mikolaj Chopin married Tekla Justyna Krzyżanowska - the housekeeper for the Skarbek family at Zelazowa Wola. They had 4 children: 3 daughters: Ludwika, Izabela and Emilia, and a son Fryderyk, the second child. Several months after his birth, the whole family moved to Warsaw, where Mikołaj Chopin was offered the post of French language and literature lecturer in the Warsaw Lyceum. He also ran a boarding school for sons of the gentry.
The musical talent of Fryderyk became apparent extremely early on, and it was compared with the childhood genius of Mozart. Already at the age of 7, Fryderyk was the author of two polonaises (in G minor and B flat major), the first being published. The prodigy was featured in the Warsaw newspapers, and "little Chopin" became the attraction and ornament of receptions given in the aristocratic salons of the capital. He also began giving public charity concerts. His first professional piano lessons (at the age of 6), given to him by Wojciech Żywny, lasted from 1816 to 1822, when the teacher was no longer able to give any more help to the pupil whose skills surpassed his own.
In 1826, Chopin began studying the theory of music, figured bass and composition at the Warsaw School of Music, which was both part of the Conservatory and, at the same time, connected with Warsaw University. Its head was the composer Jozef Elsner (b. 1769 in Silesia). Chopin, however, did not attend the piano class. Aware of the exceptional nature of Chopin's talent, Elsner allowed him, in accordance with his personality and temperament, to concentrate on piano music but was unbending as regards theoretical subjects, in particular counterpoint. Chopin, endowed by nature with magnificent melodic invention, ease of free improvisation and an inclination towards brilliant effects and perfect harmony, gained in Elsner's school a solid grounding, discipline, and precision of construction, as well as an understanding of the meaning and logic of each note. Chopin ended his education at the Higher School in 1829, and after the third year of his studies Elsner wrote in a report: "Chopin, Fryderyk, third year student, amazing talent, musical genius".
After completing his studies, Chopin planned a longer stay abroad to become acquainted with the musical life of Europe and to win fame. After two successful concerts in Vienna when he was 19, he began writing works designed for his original piano style. At the same time as his return to Vienna in 1830, Poland revolted against its Russian rulers. The uprising failed, and as a result the Russian tzar put Warsaw under harsh military rule. Chopin decided to go to Paris, which was the center of the romantic movement in the arts. He met many Polish there - thousands of exiles, including participants of the armed struggle, politicians, representatives of Polish culture, such as the writer Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, Romantic poets Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki, and the Warsaw friends of Chopin, the poets Stefan Witwicki and Bohdan Zaleski, sought refuge from the Russian occupation in a country and city which they found most friendly. Chopin made close contacts with the so-called Great Emigration, befriended its leader Prince Adam Czartoryski, and became a member of the Polish Literary Society, which he supported financially. He also attended emigré meetings, played at charity concerts held for poor emigrés, and organised similar events. In Paris, his reputation as an artist grew rapidly. Letters of recommendation which the composer brought from Vienna allowed him immediately to join the local musical milieu, which welcomed him cordially. Chopin became the friend of Liszt, Mendelssohn, Ferdinand Hiller, Berlioz and Auguste Franchomme. Later on, in 1835, in Leipzig, he also met Schumann who held his works in great esteem and wrote enthusiastic articles about the Polish composer. Upon hearing the performance of the unknown arrival from Warsaw, the great pianist Friedrich Kalkbrenner, called the king of the piano, organised a concert for Chopin (February 26, 1832 in the Salle Pleyel). The ensuing success was enormous, and he quickly became a famous musician, renowned throughout Paris. This rise to fame aroused the interest of publishers and by the summer of 1832, Chopin had signed a contract with the leading Parisian publishing firm of Schlesinger. At the same time, his compositions were published in Leipzig by Probst, and then Breitkopf, and in London by Wessel. The most important source of Chopin's income in Paris was, however, from giving lessons. He became a popular teacher among the Polish and French aristocracy and Parisian salons were his favourite place for performances.
Having settled down in Paris, Chopin deliberately chose the status of an emigré. Despite the requests of his father, he did not obey the Tsarist regulations, issued in subjugated Poland, and never extended his passport in the Russian embassy. Consequently, being regarded as a political refugee, Chopin deprived himself of the possibility of legally revisiting his homeland.
Except for occasional trips, Chopin spent the rest of his life in Paris. He gave lessons and concerts, and publishers paid well for his compositions. The French loved him for his genius and his charm. Poets, musicians, wealthy Parisians, and Polish exiles were his friends. An important influence was a romantic friendship with Baroness Dudevant, better known as the novelist George Sand. This author of daring novels, older by six years, and a divorcee with 2 children, offered the lonely artist what he missed most from the time when he left Warsaw: extraordinary tenderness, warmth and maternal care. For years, the couple enjoyed a deep love and friendship, but with time the increasingly hostile attitude of George Sand's son, who exerted a strong influence on the writer, caused ever more serious conflicts. A final parting of ways took place in July 1847.
His rapidly progressing disease made it impossible to continue giving lessons. In the summer of 1849, Ludwika Jedrzejewiczowa, the eldest sister of the composer, came from Warsaw to take care of her ill brother. On 17 October 1849, Chopin died of pulmonary tuberculosis in his Parisian flat in the Place Vendôme. He was buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. In accordance with his will, however, his heart, taken from his body after death, was brought by his sister to Warsaw where it was placed in an urn installed in a pillar of the Holy Cross church in Krakowskie Przedmieście.