He initially studied architecture. It was only in 1822 that he decided to focus on painting instead. That year, he entered the École des Beaux-arts de Paris and remained there until 1825. His primary instructors were François-Louis Dejuinne and Antoine-Jean Gros; both painters of historical and genre scenes.
At the same time, he became interested in lithography, a new printing method devised in the 1790s by the actor, Alois Senefelder. In 1826, this interest took him to Spain to work on a catalog of the paintings belonging to King Ferdinand VII at the Royal Palace of Madrid. He eventually contributed eighteen plates for that publication. he remained there for a short time after completing his work before returning to Paris.
He painted some religious works as well, such as a "Massacre of the Innocents" (See above), and participated in the decoration of several Parisian churches; including Saint-Ambroise, Saint-Antoine-des-Quinze-Vingts and Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. For the latter, he used an innovative ceramic painting technique; applied to large slabs of lava from Volvic. In 1844, he returned to Saint-Vincent-de-Paul to create a tableau representing the Trinity. Other paintings were added later. One, depicting Adam and Eve in Paradise, contained nudity and created a scandal. It was removed in 1861, placed out of sight, and not restored to its original position until 2011. More on Pierre-Jules Jollivet
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