Soon after turning 20 , he exhibited a painting “View of Paris and Saint-Louis Island” along with his father at the 1838 Salon. Then he started etching. Six of his works were exhibited at the Salon.
Although having already moved to something different from classicism thanks to his experience painting on location, Charles -François Daubigny attended the School of Fine Arts and studied in Paul Delaroche’s studio, around 1841. This was in preparation for the Prix de Rome. Charles-François managed to reach the final round. Unfortunately he was disqualified because of a missed administrative appointment, while having lunch with a friend...
Charles-François Daubigny exhibited etchings at the 1841 and 1845 Salons, which gained him a reputation as an engraver.
In 1842, he married Marie-Sophie. Cécile, their daughter, was born one year later. The family settled in Fontainebleau and Charles-François was able to work surrounded by nature. He was close to Barbizon, famous for its school, and went there often. With his friends he enjoyed installing his easel between the forest and the river. Nicknamed “the water painter”, rivers and ponds were an important part of his work and finally became the main component. He also found this atmosphere around Valmondois, so he went there more often, as it was closer to Paris, where he still had his studio.