A child prodigy, Füger was painting miniatures by the age of eight. He briefly gave up art, studying law at Halle, before public demand for his miniatures encouraged him to return to painting. He was introduced to Classicism at the school of Adam Friedrich Oeser, in Leipzig, and was further trained in the style in Italy from 1776-1783, where he came into contact with artists such as Mengs, Hamilton, Kauffman and David. This period produced some of his most important works, including his great allegories of The School of Athens, Envy, Wealth, and The Rebirth of the Arts in the Library of the Palazzo Reale in Caserta, the most mature expression of early Neo-Classicism in Naples. After leaving Italy, Füger returned to Vienna, where he became vice-director, and in 1795 director, of the Akademie der Bildenden Künste.