The son of an employee at the Sèvres porcelain factory, he received lessons from the flower painter Denis-Désiré Riocreux (1791-1872) and the landscapist Antoine-Achille Poupart (born 1788), both fellow employees of the factory. Through Roqueplan he met Diaz, Jules Dupré and Rousseau who were later to become, like Troyon, members of the Barbizon school of landscape painters. He first painted in the forest of Fontainebleau in the 1840s, but he also visited other parts of France including Brittany, the Dauphiné and Normandy.
He greatly admired seventeenth-century Dutch painting and visited Holland in 1847. Partly influenced by the paintings of Cuyp and Potter, he turned in his later career principally to animal subjects which won him considerable financial success.