A Canadian painter of Dutch birth, Cornelius Krieghof learned the rudiments of music and painting from his father. In 1830, he attended the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Düsseldorf. He moved to America around 1835 and enlisted in the US Army. In New York he met Louise Gauthier, a French-Canadian, and in 1840 he moved to Montreal with her and worked as a painter and musician. In 1843, he lived and worked in Rochester, NY, and the following year he studied in Paris, making copies of the famous works in the Louvre. Returning to Canada in 1845, he painted portraits in Toronto before moving to Longueuil and then Montreal. There he produced genre paintings, landscapes and portraits. He exhibited in Montreal and Toronto, and a series of lithographs were published after his drawings. However, he found it difficult to sell his work in Montreal and relied on sign-painting to earn a living.
In 1853, Krieghoff finally settled in Quebec City, where he for 11 years, making several trips to Europe. During this period, he achieved popularity and prosperity and painted his best-known pictures, scenes depicting the local townspeople and the North American Indians, as well as views of Quebec City and the surrounding region. From 1864 to 1867 he lived in Paris and Munich, continuing to paint Canadian themes. He then joined his daughter in Chicago where he continued to paint until his death in 1872.