Although French, Bonnat moved with his family to Madrid at the age of 14 in 1847, where he began his artistic studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in San Fernando and attended the studio of the painter Federico Madrazo. His father died in 1853, which forced his family to return to his hometown in France, Bayonne. There, he stayed for a short time and convinced the local government to finance his studies in Paris firstly, and in Rome afterwards, with scholarships of 1,500 francs for each place. He returned to Paris in 1860 and established himself as an academic painter with great influences of Michelangelo. His notoriety in the French elite came thanks to his portraits, preserving to eternity the enlightened figures such as Victor Hugo, Louis Pasteur and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. His atelier quickly gained recognition and it was sought by young painters of the time, such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Georges Braques. Thanks to his financial stability, he spent the last years of his life collecting art (mainly drawings) and founding the museum with his name in his hometown. He passed away in 1922, with 89 years old.