Jules Joseph Lefebvre was born in March 1836, in Tournan-en-Brie, or simply Tournan, France. His father owned a bakery, and young Lefebvre helped in his business. At a very young age, his artistic prowess was already rather evident.
Upon his arrival in Paris, Lefebvre started his formal art education in the studio of Leon Cogniet, a portrait and history painter. In the same year, in spite of his very young age, Lefebvre was admitted by de Ecole des Beaux-Arts of Paris. In only three years, the young artist was already exhibiting at the Paris Salon.
In 1861, encouraged by his recent success, Lefebvre decided to pursue the distinguished Grand Prix de Rome. In his first entry, the artist got to second place. However, two years later, he won the very prestigious Grand Prix de Rome, which funded his education at the French Academy in Rome. Lefebvre won the prize with his painting The Death of Priam, a picture inspired by Homer’s Illiad.
During his period in Rome, Lefebvre deepened his understanding of both Roman cultural aspects and the artworks of the Italian Renaissance masters and would begin to focus more on female-nudes. While in Rome, the artist made acquaintances with several artists such as Leon Bonnat, Tony Robert-Fleury, and Albert Giraud, which evolved into lifetime friendships.
By 1867, the artist would come to terms with his loss and began to focus on becoming one of France’s leading painters. His determination promptly paid off. Several of his artworks exhibited in subsequent Salons were met with excellent critical appraisal. Lefebvre constant present at the Salon not only provided him with consistent income but also a permanent clientele. Lefebvre’s consolidated his fame as a portrait painter during the 1870s when he depicted both wealthy bourgeoise sitters and celebrities.
Lefebvre became a professor at the Academie Julian in the early 1870s, broadening his influence on a younger generation of artists.
Jules Joseph Lefebvre died on March 14, 1836.