Jan David Geerling Grootveld lived and worked most of his life in his native Amsterdam, with a brief sojourn in Utrecht in 1865-1868. For twenty years he served as the chief decorator at Amsterdam’s ‘crystal palace’, the Paleis voor Volksvlijt, an appointment that he probably owed to his second teacher, J.E. de Vries. As well as a landscape painter and set designer, De Vries was also the palace's exhibition and entertainment director. Grootveld’s other teacher was the town and landscape painter E.P. van Bommel. In 1868 he was named a member of the Koninklijke Academie in Amsterdam.