Following the acceptance of one of his paintings to the Salon in 1870, Raffalli enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Art, where he studied in the studio of Grme for three months. His greatest inspirations at this time were Corot, Grme and Fortuny, painting landscapes and historical costume pieces. In 1877 he exhibited a portrait of a Breton family at the Salon which won him great acclaim.
Soon after, Raffalli became a member of the close-knit group who gathered around Edgar Degas at the Caf de la Nouvelle-Athnes, and through the older painter's influence, Raffalli was invited to exhibit with the Impressionists in 1880 and 1881. His chosen scenes were views of Paris, often illustrating the daily life of the city.