A native of Rotterdam, Jacob van Kouwenhoven specialised in painting romantic landscapes with cattle. He was a pupil of the renowned Antwerp landscape and animal painter B.P. Ommeganck, and the latter left a clear stamp on his work. In 1817 Van Kouwenhoven took a trip through Germany and Switzerland, making many outdoor sketches along the way that he later used for his paintings. He was the teacher of J.A. Bakker.