Diaz's life began in a very dramatic fashion. His father and mother escaped Salamanca due to his father's part in a conspiracy. Once in Bordeaux, Diaz was born in 1807. Shortly after his birth, his father died and his mother moved to Meudon to become a governess. When Diaz was twelve, his mother also passed away and the young boy was taken in by a Protestant pastor. While walking in the woods one day, he was bitten by a viper and had to have his leg amputated. One may think that this would dampen his spirits, but it created the opposite effect on this boy.
While working as a printer, Diaz met Jules Dupre who found him employment as a porcelain decorator. He quickly became tired of copying the same motifs and decided to become a professional painter. He took a few lessons in the studio of Souchon and copied master works at the Louvre, which was a common practice. He began his career painting Romantic dramas, Orientalist scenes, and florals. He exhibited regularly at the Salon from 1831 onward.
In 1836, Diaz met Theodore Rousseau and the two became fast friends and companions. The two men would set off together each morning for the Gorges of Apremont in the Barbizon region. It is quite possible to imagine Diaz painting this scene along side Rousseau on a summer afternoon.
In his memoirs of Theodore Rousseau, Sensier describes the relationship between Diaz and Rousseau:
"There was Diaz, a few paces away, painting a tree-trunk or a mossy rock, as though drawn towards Rousseau. Diaz wondered how Rousseau managed to convey such splendours, how he could invent such iridescent greens and ominous grays… In a relaxed moment Diaz ventured to ask him the secret of his palette. It was a bold move, that day, but for an enthusiast like Diaz the hour of discovery was at hand. Rousseau hastened to show him how he was able to suffuse his beautiful tones and entrancing harmonies with such vibrancy….Rousseau's palette bore fruit in the hands of his most ardent disciple and enabled Diaz's genuine talent to flourish."