Cabanel painted historical, classical and religious subjects in the academic style. He was also well-known as a portrait painter. According to Diccionario Enciclopedico Salvat, Cabanel is the best representative of the L'art pompier and Napoleon III preferred painter.
He entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris at the age of seventeen. Cabanel studied with François-Édouard Picot and exhibited at the Paris Salon for the first time in 1844, and won the Prix de Rome scholarship in 1845 at the age of twenty two. Cabanel was elected a member of the Institute in 1863 and appointed professor at the École des Beaux-Arts in the same year.
Cabanel won the Grande Médaille d'Honneur at the Salons of 1865, 1867, and 1878. "He was closely connected to the Paris Salon : "He was elected regularly to the Salon jury and his pupils could be counted by the hundred at the Salons. Through them, Cabanel did more than any other artist of his generation to form the character of belle époque French painting" (Dictionary of Art (1996) vol 5 pp 341-344).
He was closely connected to the Paris Salon: "He was elected regularly to the Salon jury and his pupils could be counted by the hundred at the Salons. Through them, Cabanel did more than any other artist of his generation to form the character of belle époque French painting" . His refusal together with William-Adolphe Bouguereau to let the impresionists in the Salon lead to the establishement of the Salon des Refusés.
A great academic painter, his Birth of Venus is one of the most known 19th century paintings.
- 1851, The Death of Moses, Dahesh Museum, New York City. New York, USA
- 1860, Nymph and Satyr, (Nymphe et Satyr), Private collection
- 1863, The Birth of Venus, Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
- 1870, The Death of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta, Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
- 1873, La Comtesse de Keller, Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
- 1880, Phèdre, Musée Fabre, Montpellier
- 1883, Ophelia, Private collection
- 1887, Cleopatra Testing Poisons on Condemned Prisoners, Private collection
- (Undated), Eve After the Fall, Private Collection
- (Undated), The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Paradise, Private Collection
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| Studied under François-Edouard Picot|
Students included Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant, Paul-Albert Besnard, Eugène Carrière, Fernand-Anne Piestre (Fernand Cormon), Pierre-Auguste Cot, Edouard Debat-Ponsan, Jules Bastien-Lepage, Henri Gervex, Aristide Maillol, Henri Regnault, Edouard Debat-Ponsan and Edouard-Théophile Blanchard
In connection with Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat and Emile Zola