A leading portrait painter of his era, Leon Bonnat would be just as well known for the students he trained and influenced, including Eakins, Toulouse-Lautrec, Braque and Caillebotte among many others.
He studied in Madrid, Spain under Raimundo de Madrazo, who was a popular Spanish realist painter and a famous portrait painter at the Salons in France. Bonnat would follow in his teacher's footsteps, heading to Paris and becoming a noted and sought after portrait painter. Among his famous sitters were Victor Hugo, Louis Pasteur and Adolphe Thiers. Most of his works are remarkably photo-realistic and crafted with superb draftsmanship and a subdued palette.
He exhibited frequently, winning honors and awards, and becoming a professor at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1882. He would take over leadership of the school in 1905.
He continued working throughout his life, and in addition to his many successful and well known portraits he also painted many historical and subject paintings that became equally as famous.
His paintings are in some of the most important collections in the world, including the Hermitage Museum in Russia, the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the State Museum of Florence in Italy.