Born in Valenciennes, Harpignies didn't begin to paint until he was 27 when in 1846 he became a student of Jean Achard in Paris. Until 1852 they travelled around Belgium, Germany and Italy. He was a close friend of Corot and familiar with followers of the Barbizon school, whose methods and principles he largely adopted. Harpignies made his Salon debut in 1853 and continued to exhibit regularly thereafter, winning medals in 1866, 1868, 1869, the Legion d'Honneur in 1875, and the Grand Prix at the Exposition Universelle of 1900 Henri-Joseph Harpignies died in St. Priv in 1916. The well-known critic, Anatole France, said that Harpignies was "the Michelangelo of trees.