Grandson of Claude-Joseph Vernet and son of another eminent artist, Carle Vernet (1758-1836), he soon developed an extraordinary facility as a painter which he used to depict a wide range of subjects including scenes taken from literature, the Bible, contemporary Italy, North Africa and the Middle East.
He is best known, however, for his many paintings celebrating French military prowess, including a series of large battle pieces for Versailles. Louis-Philippe, who had first bought his work in 1817, favoured him with many commissions. Although he achieved notoriety when some of his paintings were rejected by the Paris Salon jury of 1822, allegedly because of their anti-Bourbon character, he received a number of honours from the restored Bourbon monarchy, including in 1828 the Directorship of the French Academy in Rome (which he retained
His many foreign journeys included visits to Algeria (1833, 1837, 1839, 1845 and 1853), the Middle East (1839-40), Russia (1836 and 1842-3) and the Crimea (1854-5).