He was born in Kalundborg to Joachim Theodor Lundbye and wife Catherine Bonnevie. He was sickly as a child. He studied privately under animal painter Christian Holm and at the age of 14 he came into J. L. Lund’s drawing school and the Royal Danish Academy of Art (Danish, Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi) in Copenhagen, where he finished in 1842. He began exhibiting in 1835, and in 1839 he made An Ancient Burial Mound by Raklev on Refsnæs and his painting "Parti af Dyrehaven med Hjorte og Hinde" ("View of the Deer Park with Stag and Hind") was purchased by N.L. Høyens influential Art Union (Kunstforeningen).