Besnard was born in Beaufort-en-Vallée (Maine-et-Loire département) and died in Chalon-sur-Saône in Burgundy (Saône-et-Loire département). From 1848 to 1862, he was apprenticed in the studio of Julien-Léopold Lobin in Tours.
During the years 1862‑71 Besnard worked in the studio of Louis-Victor Gesta in Toulouse, together with Lobin’s son, Lucien-Léopold. In 1866, he collaborated with a glass-painter in Givry (Saône-et-Loire département) and executed windows for the Château d’Epiry in Saint-Emiland.
In 1871, Besnard opened his own studio, in Chalon-sur-Saône, at 32, Rue aux Fèvres; in 1880 the studio moved into the citadel at Chalon. Besnard’s son and successor Marie Pierre Joseph Besnard was born in 1880 and died in November 1932. Descendants of a former colleague, Claudius Bertrand, continued to run the studio until 1959.
The legacy of the Besnard studio is seen in numerous works in the Brionnais region in the south of Burgundy, at Saint-Racho, Saint-Edmond, Ouroux-sous-le-Bois-Sainte-Marie, Saint-Symphorien-des-Bois, Saint-Germain-en-Brionnais, Oyé, Saint-Martin-du-Lac, Ligny-en-Brionnais, and Colombier (work by Bertrand).