Paul -Albert Besnard came from a family of artists. His father, himself a versatile artist (sculptor and painter of miniatures ) but insignificant, died shortly after his birth. His mother was a respected miniaturist.
As a 15 -year-old Besnard quickly found a place in the studio of Jean -Auguste -Dominique Ingres and two years later (1866 ) he was admitted to the painting class at the École des Beaux -Arts. His teacher Jean -François Bremond (1807-1868) and Alexandre Cabanel exerted a great influence on the young Besnard - they also shared a love for the works of the painter Eugène Delacroix. In 1874 won the Prix de Rome with Besnard " La mort de Timophane ". The Prix de Rome was the most coveted award for art students and was considered a stepping stone to the highest academic honor. He also allowed the winners of a four -year stay at the Académie de France à Rome, Villa Medici in Rome.
Besnard took a long time to find the him congenial way, and only in London, where he was in 1880 with his wife, the sculptor Charlotte Gabrielle Dubray ( 1855-1930 ) - the oldest daughter of the famous sculptor Gabriel -Vital Dubray (1813 -1892 ) - had gone, his character unfolded. The gray English sky seems to have awakened a longing for light and sun in it, and this quest first came on some portraits of women expressed that he sent from London in the Paris Salon. He made the acquaintance of a colleague and compatriot Alphonse Legros, together they studied the English champions Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Lawrence.
After returning to Paris, Besnard was entrusted with the decoration of the vestibule, the pharmacist school, he performed in lighter tones, so that these paintings come close to the kind of the Impressionists. Moreover, these representations also found recognition insofar as they have been compared by some to the free, natural shapes of the Florentine frescoes. Since then he has received from the state and the city's other major contracts for public buildings.
Around 1885 he traveled to Spain, Morocco and Algeria, accompanied by the painter Jules Chéret. In the course of its activities, Besnard lost deeper and deeper into the strangest colors experiments and most artificial lighting effects, for which he was known.