Philippe Rousseau was born at Paris in 1816.
In 1834 Rousseau made his debut at the Salon of 1834 where he exhibited a series of landscapes taken from the Normandy countryside. He also exhibited still lifes, which were inspired by works of Jean Baptiste Oudry and Jean Simeon Chardin. He established himself as one of the first painters of his generation to paint and exhibit both landscapes and flower paintings.
As a favourite artist under the Second Empire, Rousseau was commissioned by the court of Napoleon III to paint large canvases of flowers and animals, which recalled the 18th century.Rousseau also exhibited at the Salons a series of still lifes and allegorical images derived from the fables of La Fontaine and in 1845 won his first medal for his City Rat and Country Rat.
Throughout his career, Rousseau was patronised by wealthy families including Baron J de Rothschild, Mme Grandin and Princess Mathilde.
The critic Theophile Gautier in 1861 recognized Rousseau as a member of the Realist circle but also praised his intense Romantic colour. Rousseau's style was much influenced by masters of Holland and Flanders of the seventeenth century.