Dalou was born in Paris and lived in the city for much of his life. He received early training at the Petite Ecole, a free alternative to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He had been identified by the sculptor Carpeaux as a precocious child of much promise. Although he resisted formal training, Dalou did spend three years at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, leaving in 1857. His first real critical success came in the 1869 Salon, when one of his figural groups, DapAnis and Chloe, was acquired by the State. By 1870 his career was surely launched, when the artist moved into a period of genre work, in which the subjects were frequently contemporary women engaged in domestic tasks, such as caring for children. During a ten-year self-imposed exile in England following the Franco-Prussian War, Dalou received commissions from the English monarch and from several institutions for the monumental works which were to change forever his perception of his own ability. The expatriate's Triumph of the Republic, installed in the place de la Nation in Paris, marked the artist's return to that city, and thereafter he essentially abandoned his successful images of domesticity for sculpture on a grander scale, producing public monuments and busts of the politically prominent. Dalou enjoyed a lifelong friendship and rivalrous relationship with Auguste Rodin, whose bust of Dalou for the 1884 Salon was accorded much praise. Dalou remained in Paris until his death.