Ella Moss Duval, painter, daughter of Samuel and Isabel (Harris) Moss, was born in Pass Christian, Mississippi, in August 1843. When she was still in her teens, her mother took her to Dresden to escape the perils of the approaching Civil War and to give her the advantage of an uninterrupted education in Europe. After her stay there she was sent to the fashionable Düsseldorf School for art instruction and studied under August Wilhelm Sohn. In her last year at Düsseldorf, Ella was awarded a prize of a year's study in Rome, but she took money in lieu of the trip and returned with her mother to New York. There, in 1887, she established herself as an artist, with a studio in the Domestic Building, where she received several commissions for portraits, including one of the second wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt. She exhibited in the National Academy of Design in 1877 and 1878. Her naturalistic portrait style with its somber colors is representative of artists taught in Düsseldorf. In 1879 she married Burr G. Duval, and the couple went to Texas. In Austin she built a studio at home and was soon teaching art classes. Among her pupils was the portraitist Ida Weisselberg Hadra.
In the early 1880s the Duvals moved to San Antonio, where the artist taught first in the French Building and later in her home in Maverick Grove. Portraits she did at this time included those of Mrs. J. T. Woodhull, Dr. Ferdinand Herff, Phillipa G. Stevenson, and Duval West, the last of which now hangs in the courtroom of the United States District Court in Austin. While pursuing her art career Mrs. Duval constantly advocated the establishment of an academy of art in San Antonio. Until her death in 1911, in St. Louis, she made every effort to encourage San Antonio in its various art activities.