Paul Cornoyer was born in 1864 in St. Louis, Missouri, where he received his first training at the School of Fine Arts. In 1889, Cornoyer went to Paris to study at the Académie Julien under Jules Lefebvre, Benjamin Constant and Louis Blanc. He remained in Paris painting and exhibiting, and won a prestigious gold medal from the American Art Association. He returned to St. Louis in 1894, and, there, won a gold medal from the St. Louis Association of Painters and Sculptors in 1895. During the 1890s, Cornoyer applied his unique, lyrical and tonal style to cityscapes and landscapes, but his works met limited success. With the encouragement of William Merritt Chase, who had acquired some of Cornoyer's works, he moved to New York City. There, he became a master at capturing overall light effects with a carefully limited range of colors.
Cornoyer taught at the Mechanics Institute in New York and summer courses in Connecticut and Massachusetts. In 1917, he relocated to East Gloucester, Massachusetts, where he continued to paint and exhibit until his death in 1923. His artistic legacy includes both his award-winning works and the many grateful students to whom he gave his time, attention and affection. Today, Paul Cornoyer's works can be found in the Yale University Art Gallery, High Museum of Art, Smith College Museum of Art, Saint Louis Art Museum, The Hickory Museum of Art, Joslyn Art Museum, The Newark Museum, Butler Institute of American Art, Dallas Art Association, Newark Art Association and Brooklyn Museum.