Léon Jean Basile Perrault was born in Poitiers, on June 20, 1832, to a modest family. Determined to pursue an artistic career, Perrault became a celebrated artist known for his historical, genre, and religious scenes, but was most successful with his idealized depictions of mythological scenes, which were very popular with the affluent bourgeoisie of the time. After receiving the first prize in a drawing competition in his hometown, Perrault traveled to Paris in 1853. He began his formal artistic training under the mentorship of Francois Edouard Picot (1786-1868). Perrault continued his studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, where he studied under William Bouguereau (1825-1905).
Perrault debuted at the Paris Salon in 1861 with a piece entitled Vieillard et les Trois Jeunes Hommes, which now hangs at the Poitiers Museum. This painting is based on a fable written by La Fontaine. He was also an established religious and military painter; his most successful works include Le Descente de Croix and Le Mobillisé. Perrault continued to be a regular exhibitor at the Salon, winning medals in 1864, 1876 and 1878.
During Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune, Perrault moved to England and exhibited Cache Cache at the Royal Academy in 1871. Returning to France, Perrault was chosen to represent France in the Vienna International Exhibition, receiving a diploma of honor. In 1887 he was knighted as Chevalier in the Legion of Honor. In 1889 he received a bronze medal in the Exhibition Universal and a silver medal in the 1900 Exhibition Universal.
Perrault died in Royan in 1908. His son Henri Perrault (1867-1932) was also an artist.