The French painter, writer and art critic Eugène Fromentin was born in La Rochelle on October 24, 1820. Fromentin intended from an early age to devote himself to painting; however, he encountered the opposition of his father. The latter demanded that Eugène Fromentin study to become a lawyer. For this reason, Fromentin studied law in Paris beginning in 1839 and finishing in 1843. Later he studied painting with Jean-Charles-Joseph Rémond (1795– 875), a classical landscape painter. After only a few months, Fromentin left his workshop and in 1844 entered the studio of Nicolas Louis Cabat (1812–93). His entire life he would regret not having a formal, academic education in painting.
Fromentin published his first art-critical article about the Salon of 1845. Here he admired the work of Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796 – 1875) and the sketches of Alexandre Gabriel Decamps (1803 – 60). In 1846 the artist took his first trip to Algeria and thereafter decided to devote himself to orientalism. After 1847, Eugène Fromentin belonged to the regular exhibitors in the Salon. In this year, he showed his painting "Vue prise dans les gorges de la Chiffa", which was praised by Théophile Gautier (1811–72).
A second trip to Algeria took place in 1847-48 with Labbé and Auguste Salzmann (1824–72). In 1847, Eugène Fromentin received a second medal at the Salon for the work "Tentes de la smala de Si-Hamed-bel-hadj". At the Salon of 1850-51, the artist also exhibited, this time with 11 pictures. With the help of a sponsored state commission, Fromentin traveled in 1853 again for almost a year to Algeria. Back in France, he published the travel narrative "Un été dans le Sahara". With the help of his friend Gustave Moreau (1826–98) he was able to establish himself in the Parisian art world. In 1857 he published his second travel narrative, "Une année dans le Sahel". Both of these works enjoyed broad acclaim. However, Fromentin’s painting, too, found official recognition at the Salon of 1859. The artist received the first medal and was named Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
In 1863, Eugène Fromentin’s autobiographical novel Dominique appeared, which became a classic of French literature. In the following year, the artist was appointed a member of the Salon jury and wrote the art-critical text "Un programme de critique". He traveled to Egypt for the inauguration of the Suez Canal in 1869. Many of his works from the 1870’s show scenes from the shore of the Nile; these are evidence of a material renewal as a consequence of this trip.
In 1870, Eugène Fromentin took a trip to Venice. However, because of the Prusso-French War, he soon returned to Paris again. In 1875, he traveled to Belgium and Holland to study the Dutch and Flemish painting of the 17th century. The literary work "Les Maîtres d’autrefois" appeared, which is still seen as a significant text of art criticism.
Eugène Fromentin died in Saint-Maurice on August 27, 1876.