Napoléon Bourassa was born in 1827 in L'Acadie, Quebec, he studied at Sulpicians College in Montréal. In 1848, he interned with Norbert Dumas in preparation for a legal career but then chose to pursue the life of an artist. Following his decision to focus on art as a career Bourassa took private lessons at the studio of the painter Théophile Hamel for 18 months.
From July 1852 to November 1855 he pursued his artistic training in Europe, staying for over than three years touring Florence and Rome. Artists that influenced and inspired Bourassa were Michelangelo, Raphael, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and Hippolyte Flandrin. During his five years as an art student, Bourassa ws not known to have taken courses in sculpture or architecture, however he practised these disciplines well into his late seventies.
Bourassa is recognized as a succesful painter, author, teacher, sculptor, and architect. He was buried 31 August 1916 in Montebello.