Johan Frederik Thaulow was born in Christiania, the son of the wealthy chemist, Harald Thaulow (1815–1881) and Nicoline ("Nina") Louise Munch (1821–1894). Thaulow was educated at the Academy of Art in Copenhagen in 1870–72, and from 1873–75 he studied with Hans Gude at the Baden School of Art in Karlsruhe. After a stay in Skagen during the autumn of 1879, Thaulow returned to Norway in 1880. He became one of the leading young figures in the Norwegian art scene, together with Christian Krohg and Erik Werenskiold, and helped established the first National Art Exhibit (also known as Høstutstillingen or Autumn Exhibit) in 1882. Many of Thaulow's best known Norwegian scenes are from Åsgårdstrand, which had become an important center for artists and painters dating from the 1880s. Thaulow moved to France in 1892, living there until his death in 1906. Thaulow soon discovered that the cityscapes of Paris did not suit him. His best paintings were made in small towns such as Montreuil-sur-Mer (1892–94), Dieppe and surrounding villages from (1894–98), Quimperle in Brittany in (1901) and Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne in the Corrèze département (1903). Thaulow received a number of honors for his artistic activity, including his appointment as commander of the 2nd Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav in 1905. He received the French Legion of Honor, Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus from Italy and the Order of Nichan Iftikhar from Tunisia. He died in Volendam, in the Netherlands. The National Gallery of Norway features 37 of his works. Other prominent displays include The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard University.