Paul Avril, whose real name was actually Édouard-Henri Avril belonged to a great French artist family, was born in 1849 in Algier. Paul Avril studied from 1871 to 1873 at the École des Beaux Arts in Marseille and from 1874 at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris.
From 1978, his works, at the time signed with his authentic initials "E. Avril", couls be found in many of the Paris salons. Without giving up painting totally, Paul Avril worked in the following years mainly as an illustrator - especially for luxury editions for bibliophiles, which appeared only in small print runs. He made a significant contribution to the development of French book illustration.
The stimulus for Avril's change was a commission from the Société des Amis des Livres to illustrate Théophile Gautier's novel "Fortunio" with "bawdy" pictures. To be on the safe side, he chose to use the moniker "Paul Avril" for this assignment and he kept it from then on.
The fact that "Paul" is the name of his brother, who engraved some of his illustrations has lead to some confusion and misunderstandings. Paul Avril illustrated, among others, Gustave Flaubert's "Salammbô" und Théophile Gautier's "Le Roi Caundale".