Jongkind studied at the Drawing Academy in The Hague, where he graduated in 1837. His teacher was the Dutch landscape painter Andreas Schelfhout, respected in his time. In 1845 he went to Paris at the invitation of the French painter Eugène Isabey. This was a decisive moment in his career. In Paris, Isabey became his teacher and he met the leading French artist Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, and the art critic Charles Baudelaire. In 1848 he exhibited for the first time at the prestigious Salon.
Johan Barthold Jongkind is a key figure in 19th-century painting and a pioneer of Impressionism. He was born in the Netherlands but lived most of his life in France.
His striking observations of nature and his direct, loose way of painting were an eye opener for French artists. From the Dutch, realistic tradition Jongkind gave the impetus to impressionism in France. Monet said that Jongkind had taught him how to look: "He took care of the education of my eye". Manet called him 'the father of the modern landscape'.
But there were also problems. Jongkind had debts and drank a lot of alcohol. When his work in 1855 was not awarded a prize at the Paris Salon, he returned to the Netherlands, disillusioned, where he ended up in a downward spiral. His friends helped him by organizing a large-scale auction. Ninety-three artists each brought in a work of art and Jongkind could pay off his debts. Jongkind returned to Paris.
From then on, a more stable and, moreover, productive period begins, although his mental condition remained changeable. His work, however, was no less. With his subtle way to paint light reflection of sparkles in the water and the light in the air, he continued to influence the other impressionists.
In Paris Jongkind met Joséphine Fresser-Borrhee with whom he would have a relationship until his death. She ensured that Jongkind kept his life under control.
Jongkind spent his later life with Joséphine in the Dauphiné. In 1878 they moved to La Côte-Saint-André.
 John Sillevis, Johan Barthold Jongkind. Gemeentemuseum The Hague, 2003