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He was born into a merchant family and began his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts of the University of Lisbon in 1841, but was known for being temperamental, taking issue with his instructor, António Manuel da Fonseca, and the school's teaching methods, so he left in 1847 without completing his courses. From 1847 to 1849 he worked as an engraver at the "Arsenal do Exército" (Army Arsenal). He then returned to painting.
Soon he began to exhibit, in Paris and Madrid as well as Portugal. He was mainly known as a landscape painter and often worked with Tomás da Anunciação, who he considered to be his true teacher. At the Exposition Universelle (1855), he exhibited what is probably his best-known work "Cinco Artistas em Sintra" (Five Artists at Sintra), which was later purchased by King Ferdinand II. After a showing in Madrid, he was knighted by King Amadeo I.
In 1860, he became a substitute Professor at the Academy, but abandoned the post in 1867 because of continuing disagreements with the administration. That year, he received a travel subsidy; visiting France and Switzerland. He also collaborated in providing illustrations for the weekly magazine Arquivo Pitoresco, which was published from 1857 to 1868.
- Biographical notes and more paintings @ Com Jeito e Arte.
- Maria de Aires Silveira, João Cristino da Silva (1829-1877) (exhibition catalog) Museu do Chiado 2000
- Diogo de Macedo, João Cristino da Silva e Manuel Maria Bordalo Pinheiro (Vol.5 of "Cadernos de Arte") Edições Excelsior 1952