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His drawings were shown to Jean-Léon Gérôme, and in 1869, Gérôme encouraged Courtais to enter the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Through his life, Courtois was in close friendship with fellow student Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret, together with whom he maintained a fashionable studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine from the 1880s.
His paintings can be seen in the art galleries of Besançon, Marseille, Bordeaux, and Luxembourg. He was a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Among his students were Willard Dryden Paddock, Mary Rose Hill Burton, and Sara Page (1855–1943).
- Gabriel P. Weisberg. Against the Modern: Dagnan-Bouveret and the Transformation of the Academic Tradition. 2002.