Born of Spanish parents, in 1825 he became a decorator of porcelain at Arsène Gillet's factory where he met Jules Dupré, Gillet's nephew. In the late 1820s he began painting his first oils, perhaps receiving lessons from François Souchon (1787-1857).
He also copied and was much influenced by the paintings of Correggio (c.1494-1534) and Prud'hon. His small-scale richly coloured landscapes and mythological scenes were popular with collectors. One of the leading figures of the Barbizon school of landscape painters, his later career was much influenced by his friend Théodore Rousseau, with whom he often painted in the forest of Fontainebleau.