Charles le Brun was born in Paris on February 24, 1619. At the age of 11, he was placed in the studio of Simon Vouet. Later, he was also a pupil of François Perrier. At 15 he received commissions from Cardinal Richelieu. In the execution of this work he displayed an ability which obtained the generous commendations of Nicolas Poussin, in whose company Le Brun went to Rome in 1642.
In Rome he worked under Nicolas Poussin for four years in the receipt of a pension due to the generosity of the chancellor.
On his return to Paris in 1646, he found numerous patrons. Together with Colbert he founded the Academy of Painting and Sculpture and the Academy of France at Rome, and gave a new development to the industrial arts.
In 1660 they established the Gobelins, which at first was a great school for the manufacture of every class of furniture required in the royal palaces. Commanding the industrial arts through the Gobelins and the whole artist world through the Academy Le Brun imprinted his own character on everything produced in France during his lifetime, and gave direction to the national tendencies which endured after his death.
The nature of his emphatic and pompous talent was in harmony with the taste of the king, who, full of admiration at the decorations designed by Le Brun commissioned him to execute a series of subjects from the history of Alexander. Louis XIV was so delighted by these that he at once ennobled Le Brun who was also created Premier Peintre du Roi with a pension of 12,000 livres, the same amount as he had yearly received in the service of the magnificent Fouquet.
From this date everything done in the royal palaces was directed by Le Brun. In 1663, he became director of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. He became the virtual dictator of the arts in France. Le Brun primarily created large altarpieces and battle pieces for King Louis XIV.
An illness ended in his death on February 22, 1690 in the Gobelins, in Paris.