Paul Delaroche was born in July 1797 in Paris. He came from a noble family known as De la Roche and surrounded by fine art since he was born. He had two brothers, one who also became a painter, and his father was a notable Parisian art dealer.
The French artist began his formal training at nineteen years old at the École des Beaux-Arts, with the help of his father, who hoped Delaroche would become an esteemed landscape painter. His brother, Jules-Hippolyte, was already a painter and focused his production on historical scenes. The young Delaroche continued at the École for the next two years, following his father's wishes, but had little interest in landscapes and also wished to work with history painting.
By 1817, Delaroche was discontent with the Academy and left the École by the end of the year. The artist began to study under Antoine-Jean Gros in his studio, where he was free to elaborate his passion for history painting. Gros was previously trained by Neo-Classical painter Jacques-Louis David. Delaroche was able to join the Neo-Classical and Academic techniques he learned in the École des Beaux-Arts with a Romanticist take on history painting, brought by Gros, to create his unique body of work.
In 1822, Delaroche was accepted in the Paris Salon for the first time, where he would participate for many years to come. By the 1830s, he was producing some of his most acclaimed works, like the paintings Princes in the Tower, and The Execution of Lady Jane Grey. Although Delaroche parted ways from the Academy years prior, the École elected him as a member in 1832, and he began to lecture as a professor at the institution a year later.
Delaroche focused mainly on portraying historical scenes. He was not necessarily interested in historical accuracy. Still, instead, he aimed to represent the facts viewed by his own understanding—the narrative of history depicted by the eyes of the XIX century with a dash of theatricality. Even so, Delaroche was very meticulous about the clothing, accessories, objects, and settings of his paintings.
During a period in his career, the French painter traveled to Italy to study religious art, as he lacked knowledge on the theme. In 1837, he exhibited his first religious-themed painting entitled St Cecilia concluded a year earlier. It was not well received by the public, which led him to stop exhibiting his paintings. Not only was he disappointed by the public's response to his religious art, but he was also tired of the dominant Neo-Classical structure of the Parisian Salons, a reflection of David's production.
After recluding himself from the Salon, Delaroche concluded his most significant masterpiece, The Hemicycle, an encaustic painting done on the walls of an École des Beaux-Arts' saloon. He worked with the assistance of four students to complete the left, right, and center portion of the mural. The saloon tragically caught on fire, ruining part of the artwork. Delaroche worked on the restoration until his death, and the project was finished by one of his pupils, Tony Robert-Fleury.
Paul Delaroche passed away in November 1856.