Born in 1821, Charles Meryon was the illegitimate son of an English doctor and a French dancer at the Paris Opera. In 1837, he joined the French Navy, which took him around the world with long stays in New Zealand and the Polynesian Islands. During his service, he sketched continuously and after he left the Navy, he settled in Paris to focus his energies on becoming an artist.
Meryon displayed great skill as an etcher, but despite the encouragement of his peers in England and France and a considerable output of masterly works, he remained in poverty. His etchings of the fast disappearing architectural treasures of old Paris were likely an inspirations for many printmakers who came after him.