Johan Barthold Jongkind was born on June 3, 1819 in Lattrop, in the East of the Netherlands. He left school at 16 to find employment with a solicitor but in 1837 his mother, a widow since the previous year, allowed him to leave for The Hague in order to attend classes at the Drawing Academy. Jongkind then became the pupil of a famous open-air landscape painter, Andreas Schelfhout (1787-1870). In the biography he devoted to Jongkind in 1918, Etienne Moreau-Nélaton was to write: "One of the most precious gifts he owed Shelfhout was his initiation to quick sketching after nature, rendering the full aspect of a landscape through a wash of summary colours over a nervous and solidly constructed drawing."
His early works convey his attachment to the tradition of Dutch landscape painters of the 17th century, first in the composition of his paintings: a low horizon – a third for the ground, two thirds for the sky, an upward diagonal from left to right, small characters animating the landscape, and secondly in the choice of his motifs: canals, skaters, mills (even though Jongkind was more interested in rendering light and atmosphere than in the picturesque of the subject). In 1845, Jongkind made an acquaintance that was to prove decisive. In The Hague to attend the inauguration of a statue of William of Orange-Nassau (known as the Taciturn, 1533-1584, a German prince, Stadhouder of Holland), the painter Eugène Isabey (1803-1886) invited Jongkind to join him in his Paris studio.