A miniaturist, of portraits, erotic mythological and genre scenes, Charlier was born in 1706 in the Champagne (east of Paris) of a poor family. His work strongly suggests that he studied with Boucher, many of whose paintings he copied, but his early career is undocumented. He is first mentioned as a painter of portrait miniatures in the 1740s and 1750s but his work from that period is not well known.
From 1748 he received royal commissions including miniature portraits in 1748 and 1754, and he was styled peintre en miniature du Roi (painter and miniaturist to the King) from 1753. Other patrons included Mme. de Pompadour, the duc de Caylus (who owned over 90 Charliers in all), the duc d'Aumont and the prince de Conti (for whom in 1772 he painted 12 large miniatures at 1,200 livres each). Annuities were settled upon him by both the duc d'Orléans (1752) and Caylus (1771). In 1778 he offered 90 of his miniatures for sale, and on 10 March 1779 he offered 90 at an auction which he stopped, finding the bids too low. He died in Paris on 19 February 1790.
Few of Charlier’s works are signed or dated, and our idea of his oeuvre and his stylistic development remains largely hypothetical. The Wallace Collection own by far the largest group of works associated with his name.