Boulanger was born at Paris in 1824. He studied with Delaroche and Jollivet, and in 1849 took the Prix de Rome. His paintings are prime examples of academic art of the time, particularly history painting. Boulanger had visited Italy, Greece, and North Africa, and his paintings reflect his attention to culturally correct details and skill in rendering the female form. His works include a Moorish Cafe (1848), Cæsar at the Rubicon (1865), the Promenade in the Street of Tombs, Pompeii (1869), and The Slave Market (1888). The recipient of many medals, he became a member of the Institut de France in 1882.