Was born in 1822 in Le Locle, Switzerland, but moved to Paris at the age of sixteen to begin his training with Louis Grosclaude. He entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and then the atelier of François-Edouard Picot. Picot also taught William Bouguereau, Alexandre Cabanel and Léon Perrault, amongst others, and was a strong proponent of the principles of the Academic tradition.
The young artist travelled to Italy at the age of nineteen and remained there for five years. He studied at the Berlin Academy between 1843 and 1844 and then returned to Paris and began exhibiting his paintings at the annual Salon, making his debut in 1850.