Jasper Francis cropsey was born February 18, 1823, on his father's farm in Rossville, Staten Island, New York. He was the eldest of eight children in a family descended from Dutch and French Huguenot immigrants. In 1837, at the age of fourteen, Cropsey won a diploma at the Mechanics Institute Fair of the City of New York for a model house that he built. That same year was apprenticed to the architect Joseph Trench for a five year period. After eighteen months, Cropsey, who had shown an early proficiency in drawing, found himself responsible for nearly all of the office's finished renderings. His employer was impressed and provided him with paints, canvas, and a space in which to study and perfect his artistic skills. It was in 1843 that Cropsey first exhibited a painting at the National Academy of Design, a landscape titled Italian Composition, probably based on a print, which was well received. He was elected an associate member of that institution the following year and a full member in 1851.
In 1842, Cropsey began to create landscape studies from nature. A two week sketching trip to New Jersey resulted in two paintings of Greenwood Lake that were shown at the American Art Union in 1843. In 1849, Cropsey took a studio in New York City from which he traveled in the summers throughout the New York state, Vermont and New Hampshire. In June 1856 Cropsey sailed for England and settled into a studio at Kensington Gate in London. There he established an active social life, and executed commissions for pictures of English landmarks for patrons in the United States, and painted scenes of America for a British audience.
Cropsey returned to America in 1863 and shortly thereafter visited Gettysburg to record the battlefields topography in a painting. He began to accept architectural commissions and produced his best known design, the ornate cast and wrought iron "Queen Anne" style passenger stations of the Gilbert Elevated Railway along New York's Sixth Avenue. Crops exhibited regularly at the National Academy of Design, his realistic meticulously detailed, and dramatically composed scenes were eclipsed in popularity by the smaller-scale, softer, mood-evoking landscapes of Barbican inspired painters. In 1893 Cropsey, a founder of the American Society of Painters in Watercolor ( later the American Watercolor Society), turned increasingly to this medium, painting both in watercolor and oil, into the final years of his life.