Friant created works in charcoal, oil, and other media. He also used photographs to prepare finished paintings. Friant was born in the commune of Dieuze in 1863. His father was a locksmith and mother a dressmaker. The wife of a chemist, Madame Parisot would hire the wife of Émile Friants father to design custom clothing. The Parisots took an early interest in the young Friant and treated him maternally, as they were without children of their own.
With the defeat of the Second French Empire at hand, as part of the then-ongoing Franco-Prussian War, Dieuze was no longer under state control. Intensely distressed by this, Parisot intended to leave the commune for Nancy, but died shortly before having the chance. In 1871, Madame Parisot fled with Friant to Nancy; his biological family would follow later.