The French historical painter, military painter, and lithographer Horace Emile Jean Vernet was born as the son of the painter Antoine Charles Horace Vernet (1758–1836) and grandson of the landscape and marine painter Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714–89) on June 30, 1789 in Paris. His parents lived in the Louvre during the French Revolution and this is also where Horace Vernet was born. He received his first training from his father and the grandfather on his mother’s side of the family, Jean-Michel Moreau (1741–1814). Furthermore, he attended the studio of painter André Vincent (1746–1816) in 1810.
The artist also competed unsuccessfully for the Prix de Rome during that year. At the age of 22, he married Louise Jeanne Pujol in 1811. In the following year, Vernet exhibited for the first time at the Paris Salon. In his painting "Defense de la barrière Clichy" (1829), Vernet depicted the defense of the Barrier of Clichy – which he experienced personally – under the command of Marshal Bon Adrien Jeannot Moncey in 1814.
In 1820, the artist embarked on a study trip to Italy together with his father. In 1826, the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris appointed Vernet as the successor of Jean Jacques Lebarbier (1738–1826). In addition, he succeeded Pierre-Narcisse Guerin (1774–1833) in 1826 as the director of the Académie de France in Rome (until 1835).
In the years 1836 and 1842, the artist went on journeys to St. Petersburg and painted portraits of the czar’s family here. In Paris, Vernet was able to win the French King Louis Philippe (1773–1850) as his patron. During the Crimean War in the years from 1853 to 1856, Vernet once again accompanied the French army.
In the following period of time, he created many battle pictures such as "The Battle of the Alma" and "Le Bataille du Pont d’Arcole". Vernet painted very few works during the last years of his life due to continuing poor health after a riding accident.
Horace Emile Jean Vernet died on January 17, 1863 in Paris.