Jean-Baptiste Armand Guillaumin was born on the 16th of February 1841 in Paris, the grandson of Jean Joseph Guillaumin who was a notary by trade. Sent to school in Moulins, his stay there was notable for two things, firstly the mountainous landscape of the area inspired his interest in art and secondly the beginnings of a life long friendship with the famous impressionist collector Eugene Murer. By 1857 he was back in Paris working as a clerk in his uncles shop and combining this with art studies under the sculptor Caillouet. These studies however caused friction with his family and he left to seek new employment and at the same time continuing his art training at the Academie Suisse where he came into brief contact with Courbet, and formed more lasting friendships with Cezanne, Oller and Pissarro. Guillaumin exhibited in the first Salon des Refuses in 1863 together with Pissarro and Cezanne and in the following two years Renoir and Monet amongst others were added to their ranks. Even at this early stage in his career Guillaumin was considered an accomplished draughtsman using economic and dynamic strokes to execute remarkably mature compositions. He was quickly accepted into the circle of Zola and the directions in which Manet was taking art drove his interest. His paintings of this period incorporate a heavy impasto derived in no small part from his exposure to Courbet.
Guillaumin, like Renoir but unlike the majority of the Impressionist artists, had no private income and had to continue in menial work to support his vocation. The advent of the Franco-Prussian war did nothing to help his cause either, but the period after the war saw a greater linking of the artists who were taking part in the Impressionist movement. Guillaumin and Cezanne came into contact with Dr Gachet who bought a number of their works, as did Murer who had recently established a successful cafe in Paris. However times were bleak for the Impressionists as a whole with the advent of a rigorously conservative political regime and the trial of Courbet for his part in the commune. The salon voted to reject all Courbet's work and that of the Impressionists who were seen as part of the Realist school, although perhaps only Pissarro had any particular political leanings towards the commune. By the time of the scandalous Exposition de la Societe Anonyme Guillaumin and Cezanne were sharing the studio that used to belong to Daubigny, both in precarious financial positions although aided by the patronage of Gachet and Murer who remained close friends of the pair. In the mid to late 1870's Guillaumin's handling of the brush becomes lighter and more complex and his palette becomes more luminous in a move away from the style of Manet and Courbet. Both Cezanne and Guillaumin wished to create something solid out of impressionism, to create a sense of underlying form in nature. By 1880 the Impressionist group was beginning to fragment, particular camps forming around Degas and Pissarro with artists drawn to either side. Gauguin was becoming a particularly vocal member of the artistic society of that time and sided heavily with Pissarro, making every effort to include Guillaumin in his cause. Despite their initial misgivings, Renoir and Monet joined the Impressionist Exhibition of 1882 with Guillaumin, Gauguin and Pissarro (also included were Sisley, Morisot, Vignon and Caillebotte) but Degas was conspicuously absent.