The son of a Russian chemist and a Swiss mother, after leaving school he studied history of art, classical archaeology and German language and literature in the universities of Berne and Munich. He obtained his doctorate in 1957 with a thesis on Vincent van Gogh. He worked as an assistant at the Historisches Museum in Berne up to 1959. In 1960 he was awarded a scholarship at the Swiss Institute in Rome. In 1961 he was a leading art critic of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Since 1962 Nizon, who has lived in Paris since 1977, has been a freelance writer. He has held various guest lectureships, including in 1984 in the University of Frankfurt am Main and 1987 in Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. Paul Nizon's estate is archived in the Swiss Literary Archives in Bern.
- "L'écrivain suisse Paul Nizon reçoit le Prix autrichien de littérature". Le Point (in French). November 16, 2010. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
- Jean-Louis de Rambures, whose translations introduced Nizon to a French readership