He originally attended the Friedrichstadt teacher training college and worked as an assistant to a "Torschreiber" (a combination gate keeper and tax collector). After beginning as an auto-didact, with some help from Carl Wagner, he enrolled at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts in 1819, where he studied with the Danish painter Johan Christian Clausen Dahl, who had recently settled there. He soon became acquainted with the work of Dahls friend Caspar David Friedrich.
Together with Johann August Heinrich (1794-1822), a student of Friedrichs, he became familiar with the surrounding countryside, especially Saxon Switzerland, and practiced what would later become known as plein-air painting. He had his first exhibition at the Academy in 1821 with "Cathedral in Winter", a work that shows the influence of Friedrich.