Born Jean-Baptiste Armand Guillaumin in Paris, he worked at his uncles lingerie shop while attending evening drawing lessons. He also worked for a French government railway before studying at the Académie Suisse in 1861. There, he met Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro with whom he maintained lifelong friendships. While he never achieved the stature of these two, his influence on their work was significant. Cézanne attempted his first etching based on Guillaumin paintings of barges on the River Seine.
Guillaumin exhibited at the Salon des Refusés in 1863. He participated in six of the eight Impressionist exhibitions: 1874, 1877, 1880, 1881, 1882 and 1886.