Andre-Henri Dargelas was born in Bordeaux on 11th October 1828. In 1854 he began his studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris where he was a pupil of Picot. He began exhibiting at the Paris Salon in 1857.
Dargelas was a Realist painter. This movement started in France at the beginning of the 19th century and was a reaction against the great historical artists of the previous century. The Realist artists painted scenes from everyday life and artists such as Dargelas, Edouard Frere and Paul Seignac chose the theme of the innocence of childhood as their main subject matter. Edouard Frere moved away from Paris to Ecouen and started an artist's community there. Names of many of the artists of the Ecouen school remain unknown but Dargelas was part of their circle.
Dargelas painted endearing scenes that typified family life. The quality of naivete infuses these themes and the simplicity of his style suggests indebtedness to the genre scenes of Chardin which were receiving considerable attention at that time. His sympathetic interest in children made his works very appealing to collectors both in France and abroad. In the early 1850s the famous English art critic John Ruskin had written a very enthusiastic article on these sentimental visions of childhood and this increased the demand for them in England.
Dargelas, Frere and their followers painted the lower classes with purity and wholesomeness and this alleviated the real misery of their lives which other Realist artists dedicated themselves to revealing. The theme of the schoolroom was another popular theme. These works seem to underscore the enlightened contemporary idea of the importance of education for the masses.
Dargelas died in Ecouen in June, 1906.