Pierre Carrier-Belleuse was one of four artists born to the famous sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824-1887), who influenced the young Rodin.
Pierre studied at the École des Beaux-Arts under Alexandre Cabanel (1824-1881) and Pierre Victor Galland (1822-1892). Following his first appearance at the Salon in 1875 and his medal of Honor in 1887, Carrier-Belleuse’s female portraits and scenes of modern life in Paris quickly gained popularity. He reached critical acclaim at the Exposition Universelle in 1889 when he was awarded a silver medal.
Carrier-Belleuse is also known for his Panthéon de la Guerre, the world's largest painting ever produced upon its unveiling in 1918 (45 ft. high and 402 ft. in circumference), a work he conceived with Auguste François-Marie Gorguet. Partially preserved today at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, it contains almost 6,000 life-size portraits of Allied wartime figures. The painting hung in Paris in a custom-built exhibition space located next to the Hôtel des Invalides until it was acquired by US businessmen in 1927. Sent on a US tour, it attracted over one million visitors at his first stop at Madison Square Garden, New York.
America was a familiar territory and a source of inspiration for Carrier-Belleuse. With his wife Thérèse Duhamel-Surville, a cousin of Honoré de Balzac, he first travelled there in 1885. When Carrier-Belleuse returned to France, he shifted his style to work almost exclusively in pastel. Like Edgar Degas, he developed an interest in Parisian ballet scenes, and his depictions of the ballerina’s tutus, expertly drawn in pastel, resulted in some of the most graceful images of arabesques in 19th century art.
Later in his life, Carrier-Belleuse settled in Wissant, a sleepy seaside commune in Northern France turned artist colony led by painters Virginie Demont-Breton and her husband Adrien. Until WWI, Pierre could be seen painting alongside the couple, together with fellow artist, Léon Lhermitte.