Natural of Cartaxo, José Tagarro attended the Escola de Belas-Artes de Lisboa between 1920 and 1927, where he was the pupil of Columbano and Carlos Reis. In 1929 he had the opportunity to visit France and to study in Paris for some time.

In his short artistic career, that went little beyond his academic period, José Tagarro revealed himself above all as a draftsman. His drawings, in which the portrait and rural figures are the dominant themes, are rigorous and correct, with great synthetic power. In painting, that he was unable to develop in the same way, he accomplished some interesting portraits, although at times a little inflexible in the form of expression.

The artist also contributed to the illustration of magazines and books, collaborating on countless publications, from which he derived a livelihood but which did not always provide him with the opportunity to express his talent. Although he collaborated on various - Ilustração, Civilização, Magazine Bertrand, etc.- he most closely identified with the ideals and the people who gravitated around Seara Nova, for which he showed the greatest assiduity and personal interest.

José Tagarro is part of the 2nd generation of modernists and actively collaborated in the artistic manifestations of his time. He showed his work at the annual exhibitions of the Sociedade National das Belas Artes (S.N.B.A.) in 1927, 1929 and 1939, presented drawings at the II Salão de Outono, organized by the magazine Contemporânea in the S.N.B.A. (1926) and was part of the organization of the I and II Salão Independente (1930 and 1931). He also held individual exhibitions in Lisbon (1928 and 1929) and in Porto (1930), at the Gallery of the Santa Casa da Misericórdia. After his death, a group of friends promoted an exhibition of his works in S.N.B.A. (1932) and the Secretariado Nacional de Informação instituted a prize in drawing and aquarelle in his name (1944).