Dahl studied initially in Bergen, Norway, where he was an apprentice in decorative painting from 1803-09. From 1811-17 he studiead at the famous Copenhagen Academy under Carl Adolf Lorentzen, Nicolaj Dajon and Georg Haas. In 1814 and 1816 he travelled and stayed on the island of Engelholm. In 1817 he made a journey to the south of Sweden with Christian Juergensen Thomsen, founder of nordic archaeology. In 1818 he went to Dresden, where he met Caspar David Friedrich who was to become a close friend. In 1820he was made a member of the Dresden Academy. The same year he moved to Naples, where he painted with Franz Ludwig Catel and others. In 1821 he was in Rome where he was slose to Bertel Thorvaldsen's circle. He then returned to live in Dresden where he was made Professor at the Academy. He made further trips to Norway in 1826, 1834, 1839, 1844, and 1850. In 1847 he was in Brussels and Paris.Alongside Caspar David Friedrich, Dahl is considered one of the greatest of the European landscape and symbolist Romantic artists.