Dagnan-Bouveret was one of the leading French artists of the academic school. He was born in Paris, the son of a tailor, and was raised by his grandfather after his father emigrated to Brazil. Later he added his grandfather's name, Bouveret, to his own. From 1869, he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under Alexandre Cabanel and Jean-Léon Gérôme. In 1873, he opened his own studio with a fellow student Gustave-Claude-Etienne Courtois. From 1875, he exhibited at the Salon, where in 1880 he won the first-class medal for the painting An Accident, and a medal of honour in 1885 for Horses at the Watering Trough. From the 1880s, Dagnan-Bouveret along with Gustave Courtois, maintained a studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a fashionable suburb of Paris. By that time he was recognized as a leading modern artist known for his peasant scenes, but also for his mystical-religious compositions. His large-scale painting The Last Supper was exhibited at the Salon de Champ-de-Mars in 1896. He also painted portraits for wealthy clients including the British collector George McCulloch. He was one of the first to use the then new medium of photography to bring greater realism to his paintings. In 1891, he was made an Officer of the Legion of Honour; in 1900 he became a member of the Institut de France.