Corinth was born Franz Heinrich Louis on 21 July 1858 in
Prussia. The son of a tanner, he displayed a talent for drawing as a child. In 1876 he went to study painting in the academy of
Königsberg. Initially intending to become a
history painter, he was dissuaded from this course by his chief instructor at the academy, the
genre painter Otto Günther.
 In 1880 he traveled to
Munich, which rivaled Paris as the
avant-garde art center in Europe at the time. There he studied briefly with
Franz von Defregger before gaining admittance to the
Academy of Fine Arts Munich, where he studied under
Ludwig von Löfftz.
 The realism of Corinth's early works was encouraged by Löfftz's teaching, which emphasized careful observation of colors and values.
 Other important influences were
Courbet and the
Barbizon school, through their interpretation by the Munich artists
Wilhelm Leibl and
Except for an interruption for military service in 1882–83, Corinth studied with Löfftz until 1884.
 He then traveled to
Antwerp, where he greatly admired the paintings of
Rubens, and then in October 1884 to Paris where he studied under
William-Adolphe Bouguereau and
Tony Robert-Fleury at the
 He concentrated especially on improving his drawing skills, and made the female nude his frequent subject. He was disappointed, however, in his repeated failure to win a medal at the
Salon, and returned to Königsberg in 1888 when he adopted the name "Lovis Corinth".