His father Laurent was a painter in Paris and taught him the rudiments of art. Simon's brother Aubin Vouet (15951641) and his grandson Ludovico Dorigny (16541742) were also painters. Simon began his painting career as a portrait painter. At a young age he travelled to England and was part of the entourage of the Baron de Sancy, French ambassador to Constantinople. From there he went to Venice and was in Rome in 1614.
He spent an extensive period of time in Italy, from 161to 1627. He was mostly in Rome where the Baroque style was emerging during these years. He received a pension from the King of France and his patrons included the Barberini family, Cassiano dal Pozzo, Paolo Giordano Orsini and Vincenzo Giustiniani. He also visited other parts of Italy: Venice; Bologna, (where the Carracci family had their academy); Genoa, (where from 1620 to 1622, he worked for the Doria princes); and Naples. He was a natural academic, who absorbed what he saw and studied, and distilled it in his painting: Caravaggio's dramatic lighting; Italian Mannerism; Paolo Veronese's color and di sotto in su or foreshortened perspective; and the art of the Carracci, Guercino, Lanfranco and Guido Reni. Vouet's immense success in Rome led to his election as president of the Accademia di San Luca in 1624. In 162he married Virginia da Vezzo who modelled Madonnas for Vouet's religious commissions.Vouet's allegory La Richesse was painted about 1640, possibly for one of the royal chateaux of France (Louvre)Simon Vouet.copy of Vouet's self-portrait by his pupil Nicolas Mignard.
Despite his success in Rome, Vouet suddenly returned to France in 1627, following pressing recommendations from the Duc de Bthunes and a summons from the King. A French contemporary, lacking the term 'Baroque', said, 'In his time the art of painting began to be practiced here in a nobler and more beautiful way than ever before,' and the allegory of 'Riches' illustration, left demonstrates a new heroic sense of volumes, a breadth and confidence without decorative mannerisms.
Vouet's new style was distinctly Italian, importing the Italian Baroque style into France. He adapted this style to the grand decorative scheme of the era of Louis XIII and Richelieu and was made premier peintre du Roi. Louis XIII commissioned portraits, tapistery cartoons and paintings from him for the Palais du Louvre, the Palais du Luxembourg and the Chteau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. In 1632, he worked for Cardinal Richelieu at the Palais-Royal and the Chteau de Malmaison. In 163he also decorated the chteau of the prsident de Fourcy, at Chessy, the htel Bullion, the chteau of marshal d Effiat at Chilly, the htel of the Duc dAumont, the Sguier chapel, and the gallery of the Chteau de Wideville.
In Paris, Vouet was the fresh dominating force in French painting, producing numerous public altarpieces and allegorical decors for private patrons. Vouet's sizeable atelier or workshop produced a whole school of French painters for the following generation, and through Vouet, French Baroque painting retained a classicizing restraint from the outset (although Vouet was not as classical as his contemporaries, Nicolas Poussin and Philippe de Champaigne).
His most influential pupil was Charles le Brun, who organized all the interior decorative painting at Versailles and dictated the official style at the court of Louis XIV of France, but who jealously excluded Vouet from the Acadmie Royale in 1648. Vouet's other students included Valentin de Boulogne (the main figure of the French 'Caravaggisti'), Charles Alphonse du Fresnoy, Pierre Mignard, Eustache Le Sueur, Nicolas Chaperon, Claude Mellan and the Flemish artist Abraham Willaerts. Vouet was also a friend of Claude Vignon.
A number of Vouet's decorative schemes have been lost but are recorded in engravings by Claude Mellan and Michel Dorigny.