Théodule Ribot first tried to study art at the trade school in Châlons, École des Arts et Métiers. When his father died in 1840, Ribot had to help support his family. He worked as a bookkeeper in Rouen, married early, and left for Paris in 1845. There he did various jobs, studied in the atelier of Auguste-Barthélémy Glaize (1807-1893), and, in 1848, went to Algeria to work as a foreman for three years. Back in Paris, he befriended the painter Bonvin (q.v.), who held an exhibition of pictures by his friends in his studio in 1859. These artists, including Fantin-Latour (q.v.), Alphonse Legros (1837-1911), Antoine Vollon (1833-1900), and J. A. M. Whistler (1834-1903), depicted ordinary subjects from their immediate environments without relying on narrative, and they generally used somber colors, limited illumination, and broader brushwork that contrasted with academic standards and methods. Their work elicited a positive response from Courbet (q.v.), considered the father of realism in France. Ribot first exhibited at a Paris Salon in 1861, when his kitchen scenes won generally favorable reviews. To underscore a humble life-style for the artist, his early biographers claim that the dark, inky backgrounds of his pictures were the result of Ribot's painting by lamplight in his free evenings at home. He continued to depict working-class and peasant subjects in a style variously described as Dutch or Spanish by critics, and he participated in the Salons and provincial and international art exhibitions. Always interested in expanding exhibition opportunities for independent painters like himself, he signed a petition in 1863 that decried the Salon jury's numerous rejections that year and contributed to the official decision to hold the Salon des Refusés. Ribot sold his pictures through art galleries in Paris, such as those of Louis Martinet, Alfred Cadart, and Bernheim Jeune, and the French state bought his St. Sebastian (Musée d'Orsay, Paris) in 1865. In 1878 he was named to the Legion of Honor. The following year a serious illness kept Ribot from painting for two years, and his production fell off after this period. In 1884 his fellow artists, including Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884), Boudin (q.v.), Fantin-Latour, Monet (q.v.), Puvis de Chavannes (q.v.), and Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), held a banquet in his honor and gave him a medal inscribed "To Théodule Ribot, the independent painter." It is ironic, then, that the year after his death a major retrospective exhibition was organized at the official art school, the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.