Anton Mauve was born on 18 September 1838 at Zaandam. His father was a Baptist preacher; soon after Anton's birth the family moved to Haarlem. He received his first drawing lessons from the animal painter Pieter van Os, and from Wouterus Verschuur, who was famous for his stable interiors. In 1858 he went to the village of Oosterbeek, the so-called Dutch "Barbizon", where young artists gathered to study nature en plein air. There he met painters such as Paul Gabriël, Willem Maris and Gerard Bilders. Then followed a period in which Anton Mauve lived in various cities of the Netherlands; only in 1871 he decided to settle in The Hague. He married Ariëtte Carbentus, a cousin of Vincent van Gogh. His friendships with the painters of Oosterbeek were an excellent introduction to the circles of the group of The Hague School, of which he became one of the leading artist. His paintings were well received, and sold well thanks to the good international contacts of Vincent van Gogh's uncle, who was an art dealer in The Hague.
In 1881 Van Gogh decided he wanted to become a painter and asked Anton Mauve to help him with the first steps. Mauve allowed him to work in his well appointed studio and to make drawings and watercolours after his models. Early in 1882 Van Gogh and Mauve had serious quarrels about Vincent's relationship with Sien Hoornik, a prostitute. Eventually Vincent left The Hague, but he always spoke respectfully about Mauve as a great artist.
Anton Mauve started to work in the surroundings of Laren, a picturesque village between Amsterdam and Utrecht. He even decided to move away from The Hague and to live in Laren. His house was called "Ariëtte" after his wife; the house is not far from the heath where he loved to paint outdoors, and close to the Singer Museum.
He died suddenly in 1888. Vincent van Gogh honoured his memory by sending one of his blossom tree paintings from Arles to Mauve's widow, with the dedication: "Souvenir de Mauve".