Born on February 4th 1872 in Botosani, in a poor family, he lost both of his parents when he was just four years old and was taken care for by his elder sister. In 1887 he enrolled at the Fine Arts School in Iasi, where he studied under Gh. Panaiteanu Bardasare si C.D. Stahi, who helped train and prepare himself to be an artist, who knew both Romanian art traditions and European modern trends, as later Bancila would be one of the most important Realist artists. In 1894 Bancila left for Munich, were he continued his studies until 1898, worked in the studios of Haschbe or Lenbach and also had his first solo exhibitions, with surprising success for a young artist. But even if Octav Bancila was taking his first steps as a professional artist, his talent and training more than made up for his lack of experience. He would then leave for Italy, as he was attracted by the art of Italian Renaissance.
In Italy he had the chance of studying first hand the works of the Old Masters, discovering in awe the painting, graphics and sculptures of the Renaissance, as well as the architectural wonders of those times, all of which would have a profund influence on him. He returned to Iasi, and for most of his life he would be an art, drawing and caligraphy teacher, first in schools, then, in 1916 - 1937 at the Fine Arts School in Iasi, where he proved to be a good and influential professor. His woriks were presented in group and solo shows, he received several commisions from collectors, he taught a lot. He often presented his works together with other major artists of his time, such as Gheorghe Petrascu, Jean Alexandru Steriadi, Paul Veron, I. Mateescu and so on.
At the same time, besides being a major painter, Octav Bancila was also a leftist sympathiser, and his politic convictions deeply marked his mature compositions, being a major source of inspiration for his compositions. Many of his important works, both paintings and drawing, are inspired by the meager life of the poor - workers, jews, peasants - their hardships and troubles, their struggle for existence, all in a surprinsingly realist and touching manner, which brought him a great deal of admiration. After the peasant uprising of 1907 and it's brutal reprehension, for example, inpired him a group of 15 works, highly critical of the governement's intervention.
Octav Bancila is remember today mostly for this type of works, though at the time it also brought him a great deal of criticism from those who didn't appreciate his political ideals. But the sheer force and precision of the drawing, the strength and realism of his compositions, the sensibility with which he chose to represent an ignored part of life brought him the recognision he so deserved. There is a dramatical tension, present mainly in his later works, that prove the intensity with which he "lived" his subjects. These were much more than simple art, they were protests against a way of living that Bancila was very much against. They were beautiful confessions of his ideals and revolt.