Born in Paris into an affluent bourgeois family, Ernest Chausson was the sole surviving child of a building contractor who had made his fortune assisting Baron Haussmann in the redevelopment of Paris in the 1850s. To please his father, Chausson studied law and was appointed a barrister for the Court of Appeals, but had little or no interest in the profession. He frequented the Paris salons, where he met celebrities such as Henri Fantin-Latour, Odilon Redon, and Vincent d'Indy. Before deciding on a musical career, he dabbled in writing and drawing. In 1879, at the age of 24, he began attending the composition classes of Jules Massenet at the Paris Conservatoire. He also studied with César Franck. Chausson interrupted his studies in 1881, after a failed attempt to win the Prix de Rome. From 1886 until his death in 1899, Chausson was secretary of the Société Nationale de Musique, he received a great many eminent artists, including the composers Henri Duparc, Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy, and Isaac Albéniz, the poet Stéphane Mallarmé, the Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev, and the Impressionist painter Claude Monet.