A wigmaker's son, Jean-Michel Moreau le jeune was attuned to fashion early on. Not surprisingly, then, his best-known works were illustrations for a costume book published in 1777 and 1783. Monuments de costumephysique et morale remains the most complete record of the taste and the manners of French nobility in Moreau's day.
Moreau first studied with a painter and engraver, following him to St. Petersburg in 1758. When he returned to Paris in 1759, however, he virtually abandoned painting. Joining an engraver's workshop, Moreau made drawings for engravings after contemporary and Old Master artists. He also provided drawings for Diderot's Encyclopédie and, as an engraver, collaborated with François Boucher and illustrated the writings of Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Publishers sought him out for his powers of observation and ability to capture nuances of gesture, pose, and light.
Moreau was named Designer to the King in 1770 and Designer and Engraver to the King in 1781. He traveled to Italy in 1785 and joined the Académie Royale in 1789. Success continued during the French Revolution, and in 1814 Louis XVIII re-appointed him to a royal office.