Gustave Brion was primarily known for his genre depictions of the local folk and customs of his native Alsace. There was a ready market for these charming scenes of peasants wearing authentic costumes as they provided a “documentary” of the popular folklore of the region. However, like most serious-minded and ambitious regional French artists, Brion understood the need to be in Paris in order to further his reputation. He therefore moved there from Alsace in 1850, taking a studio in the same building as Jules Breton and François Bonvin on rue Notre Dame des Champs. Once in Paris, he also realized that fame and recognition could only be advanced with success at the Salon. It was in the mid 1860s that Brion’s star began to rise; in 1863 he received a First-Class medal at the Salon and was also awarded the Légion d’honneur. This was followed by a Second-Class medal at the 1867 Exposition Universelle and a medal of honor at the 1868 Salon. However, Brion may be best remembered for his illustrations for Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, one of the most popular books of the period.
The Franco-Prussian War, which resulted in the German Empire annexing most of Alsace, was a hard reality for Brion as it meant losing his beloved homeland; he died a few years later in 1877.