Leon Augustin Lhermitte was the son of a school teacher and settled in Paris in 1863, enrolling in the École Impériale de Dessin. His teacher was Lecocq de Boisboudran. Working in charcoal, oil and pastel, Lhermitte produced an oeuvre of astounding virtuosity.He seldom deviated from the sun-dappled depiction of the French rural landscape and its glorious heroes and heroines - the gleaners, laundresses and farm labourers – set in harmonious accord. His paintings are indebted to the beauty of the Barbizon landscape painters, such as Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1895) and to the subtle strength of the French realists, such as Jean Francois Millet (1814-1875) and Julien Dupré (1851-1910). Lhermittte never descended into sentimentalism when rendering his rustic scenes, his depiction of the activity always embodied dignity and grace in the wake of increasing industrialization.
As a young child, Lhermitte was frequently ill and so spent a great deal of time drawing portraits of his parents and copying engravings that he found in popular French magazines. A neighbour took notice of his talent and submitted some works to the Minister of Fine Arts.This would earn Lhermitte a renewable scholarship and enabled him to attend the École Impériale de Dessin in Paris.
During his second year at the École, Lhermitte exhibited his first work at the Salon, a charcoal drawing executed in black and white, produced when he was only nineteen years old. Lhermitte would continue to exhibit drawings for the remainder of his career.