From 1842 to 1846 Adolphe-Joseph-Thomas Monticelli studied painting at the Ecole Municipale de Dessin in Marseilles. Its director encouraged his students to paint directly from nature. In 1846 Monticelli moved to Paris and gained admission to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, spending his free time in the Louvre copying works by Veronese, Rubens, Rembrandt, Watteau, Fragonard and Delacroix.
It was fellow artist Diaz de la Peña (1807-1876), who stimulated him to add small figures in his landscapes and to use bolder colours and a heavier texture. In the 1860's Monticelli specialized in depicting members of fashionable society in lush landscapes, recalling the works of Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) following a revival of interest in the rococo style at the time.
After returning to Marseilles at the start of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 Monticelli painted with Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) in the surrounding countryside. His later work revealed a fascination with texture and he amply experimented with his impastos, creating a dynamic surface. The artist remained in Marseilles until his death in 1886.