Henri-Edmond-Joseph Delacroix was born in Douai, a commune in the Nord départment in northern France, on 20 May 1856. He had no surviving siblings. His parents, with a family history of ironmongery, were Alcide Delacroix, a French adventurer, and British Fanny Woollett.
In 1865 the family moved to a location near Lille, a northern French city close to the Belgian border. Alcides cousin, Dr. Auguste Soins, recognized Henris artistic talent and was very supportive of his artistic inclinations, even financing the boys first drawing instructions under painter Carolus-Duran the following year. Henri was Durans protégé for a year. His studies continued for a short time in Paris in 1875 with François Bonvin before returning to Lille. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, and in 1878 he enrolled at the Écoles Académiques de Dessin et dArchitecture, studying for three years in the studio of Alphonse Colas. His art education continued, under fellow Douai artist Émile Dupont-Zipcy, after moving to Paris in 1881.