Gabrielle de Veaux Clements was born in Philadelphia in 1858. Her parents were Dr. Richard Clements and Gabrielle de Veaux. Her mother Gabrielle de Veaux was from South Carolina. American Revolutionary War hero, General Francis Marion, her maternal ancestor, was called "Swamp Fox". Clements attended Miss Longstreth's school in Philadelphia and developed an interest in art as a teenager.
In 1875, Clements attended the Philadelphia School of Design for Women in Philadelphia under Charles Page, with whom she studied lithography. She then attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York from 1876 to 1880, where she studied science, made scientific drawings, and received her Bachelor of Science degree. Her senior thesis was A Study of Two German Masters in Medieval Art, Dürer and Holbein. After completing her studies at Cornell, Clements returned to Philadelphia and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1881 to 1882, under Thomas Eakins. She won the school's Toppan Prize. Stephen Parrish taught her to be an etcher in 1883. She produced a number of lithographs and scientific drawings during her school years.
In 1883, she met who would become her travel and life companion, American Impressionist Ellen Day Hale. About 1884, she attended Académie Julian in Paris. Clements studied under William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Tony Robert-Fleury. Hale came to Paris with be with her. In 1885, Clements exhibited at the Paris Salon and as the women traveled through France, Clements taught Hale to etch.
In 1883, Clements began working professionally, making prints and exhibiting her works. She created the appearance of 3-dimensions by overlapping, or interposition, in Church and Castle, Mont Saint-Michel (1885). In 1888, Clements exhibited 20 of her works at The Work of Women Etchers of America show held by the Union League of New York, led on by Sylvester Rosa Koehler. Held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, it was the first show held at a museum of women's works of art. David Tatham considered the exhibitions led by Koehler in the late 1880s to be "ground-breaking women etcher's shows". Her etchings were based upon modern French techniques, like a la poupée, and were influenced by Woodblock printing in Japan and the works of James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
Clement made a portrait of Edmondo De Amicis, which was printed in an extra volume of etchings and photogravures to his 1888 book Spain and the Spaniards. She illustrated a book of verses entitled Easter Song by Charlotte Pendleton, which was published in 1892.