He went to China in 1737 and was given the title Painter to the Emperor by the Qianlong Emperor. Because the emperor insisted on the use of a Chinese painting methods and styles, Attiret's painting eventually became entirely Chinese in style. Most of his works were paintings of natural subjects such as trees, fruit, fish and other animals done on glass or silk. But they also include portraits of members of the imperial family and court; altogether he is credited with at least 200 portraits.
After successful military campaigns in Central Asia, the Qianlong Emperor commissioned depictions of the battles. The work was carried out by four Jesuit artists, among them Attiret. The group produced 16 tableaux, which were engraved in France in 1774, 6 years after Attiret's death in Beijing.