Born in Toulouse, Henri Martin first trained in Toulouse at the École des Beaux-Arts under Jules Garipuy.
Martin went, as a young man to Paris where he studied in 1879 under J.P Laurens. He exhibited his paintings the following year at the Paris Salon and became known in 1883 with a work entitledFrançoise de Rimini.
Henri Martin traveled to Italy in 1885 and the trip had a decisive influence over his career. He had so far been a classical painter and after discovering the light of the Italian skies and the works of Giotto and of primitive painters, Martin then painted works full of poetry using a special technique with swift, short separated and parallel brush strokes giving them vaporous touch.
The first painting showing his new technique was Fête de la Fédération, exhibited in 1889, which earned him a gold medal. Martin was commissioned in 1895 to decorate several rooms of the new Paris town hall for which he was awarded theMedal of the Légion d’Honneur, the highest honor that can be awarded to a civilean. The same year the artist took part in an exhibition at the Mancini gallery which established his fame. Henri Martin was also awarded a major prize at the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris and decorated the capitol building in Toulouse. In addition, he created works for the Sorbonne, the Court of Justice and the State Council in Paris.
He lived most of his life in Marquayrol, near Bastide-du-Vert, France, where he died in 1943.