He was sent by his family to Paris, and after travelling in Italy returned to France and made his first appearance at the Salon in 1824; his reputation, however, was not established until three years later, when he exhibited Tasso at the Convent of Saint Onophrius.
Endowed with a vigorous original talent, and with a vivid imagination, especially for the tragic incidents of history, he soon rose to fame, and in 1850 succeeded François Granet as member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. In 1855 he was appointed professor and in 1863 director of the École des Beaux-Arts, and in the following year he went to Rome as director of the French Academy in that city.
Among his chief works are:
His son, Tony Robert-Fleury, was also a painter.