Fantin-Latour studied at the École-des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and was trained in the studio of Lecocq de Boisbaudran where the teaching was based on the education of the memory to encourage the painting of the imaginary. The rapid brushwork and strong tonality of Apotheose de Berlioz owes much to Fantin's early training at the École de Dessin where students were trained in the technique of swift observation. He had as fellow-students Cazin and Legros who remained his friends. Together with Whistler, Fantin Latour went to London where he was deeply influenced by Pre-Raphaelite art. From 1801 he exhibited at the Salon with paintings of still life, allegories and portraits and contributed to the Salon des Refusés in 1863 being a friend of Manet.
Fantin-Latour's first success at the Salon was his exhibit of 1864, Homage à Delacroix. A number of his works were inspired by various composers such as Brahms, Schumann, Berlioz and in particular Wagner; these paintings serve as a valuable testimony to the literary and artistic life of the era. It is these compositions which had musical themes as their subjects which connected Fantin-Latour most strongly to the Symbolist movement. His fondness for this type of subject, together with the blurred impression of the atmosphere he creates, marked the evolution of his Symbolist vision.
Today, his works are exhibited in a vast array of museums, including the Louvre, The Tate Gallery, The Musée d’Orsay and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.