Harpignies became a student of Achard in Paris in 1846. 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 adopted to a certain extent. His first great success came at the Salon in 1861, after which he exhibited regularly. He then spent much of his time painting in Italy. In 1886 he received an award for "Le Soir dans la campagne de Rome", which was acquired for the Luxembourg Gallery.