He won the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1861, with the painting Death of Priam. Between 1855 and 1898 he exhibited 72 portraits in the Paris Salon. In 1891 he became a member of the French Académie des Beaux-Arts.
Since 1870 he worked as professor at the Académie Julian in Paris and on that same year he became Officer of the Légion d'honneur (Commander from 1898). Lefebvre is chiefly important as an excellent and sympathetic teacher, who numbered many Americans among his 1500 or more pupils.
Many of his paintings are single figures of beautiful women. Among his best portraits were those of M. L. Reynaud and the Prince Imperial (1874).
One of his models was the French Sarah Brown.
Figure allégorique de profil
Fleurs des champs
Jeanne la rousse
La douleur de Marie Magdalène
La boite de Pandore
Mary Magdalene in the Cave
Page of Paris-Noel
Portrait de femme aux cheveux roux
Young Woman with Morning Glories in Her Hair