Lhermitte painted scenes of village and rural life. He won a scholarship to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris at age 19. The following year, in 1864, Lhermitte exhibited at the Paris Salon for the first time and continued to show work in the Salon for the rest of his long career.
Lhermitte turned down painter Edgar Degas’ invitation to exhibit with the artists’ group that came to be known as the Impressionists in 1879. His reputation blossomed in the 1880s. Lhermitte was made a member of the Legion of Honor in 1884; in the next few years, the French government purchased several of his works.
Lhermitte and the sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) were close friends; in 1889, Rodin’s student and companion Camille Claudel sculpted Lhermitte’s eldest son. The 1889 Exposition universelle in Paris saw Lhermitte awarded its coveted grand prize. The artist’s commissions and sales mounted. Throughout the 1890s, British and American collectors sought his works. Lhermitte exhibited regularly in London, New York, and Boston.