Johan Jongkind was born on June 3, 1819 in Lattrop, the Netherlands, close to the border with Germany. He studied at the art academy in The Hague and in 1846 he moved to the Montmartre quarter of Paris, France where he trained under Eugène Isabey and Francois-Edouard Picot.
Two years later his work was accepted for exhibition at the Paris Salon, and he received acclaim from critic Charles Baudelaire and Emile Zola. However, an alcoholic and subject to depression, Johan Jongkind experienced a series of ups and downs.
In 1855 Jongkind returned to live in Rotterdam, and remained there until 1860. Back in Paris, in 1861 he rented a studio in Montparnasse where his painting began to show glimpses of the impressionist style to come.
In 1862 Johan Jongkind befriended Claude Monet who later referred to Jongkind as the 'master'. In 1863 Jongkind exhibited at the first Salon des Refusés. Despite several successes, the impressionist group did not accept his work for their first exhibition in 1874.
In 1878 Jongkind moved to live in the small town of La Côte-Saint-André near Grenoble with his wife, fellow painter Joséphine Fesser. There he died on February 9, 1891. He is buried in the local cemetery.