Felix Ziem was born in Beaume on the Cote d' Or on 26th February 1821. A pupil of the School of Architecture in Dijon, Ziem worked initially as an architect. In 1841 he travelled to Italy where he met Count Grigori Gagarin, who he accompanied on voyages to Nice and to St. Petersburg. Returning to Italy in 1842, Ziem visited Rome and Venice, which was to become the principal subject of his later paintings.
Ziem exhibited for the first time at the Paris Salon in 1849 and remained a frequent exhibitor there until 1868, with Constantinople and Venice as his favourite subjects. From 1860 he lived in Montmartre in the winter and in Nice in the summer, and in 1864 Princess (later Queen) Victoria was his pupil.
He resumed exhibiting regularly at the Salon from 1888, with a much more atmospheric and impressionist style, concentrating on dramatic skies full of colour and light. The naturalist approach of the Barbizon School influenced Ziem's later paintings and he became a renowned and successful artist. He won many medals for his work and was created Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1857, ascending to an Officer in 1878.
He died in Paris on 10th November 1911, leaving part of the contents of his studio to the City of Paris.