He was born at Basel. His father, Christian Frederick Bocklin (b. 1802), was descended from an old family of Schaffhausen, and engaged in the silk trade. His mother, Ursula Lippe, was a native of the same city. Arnold studied at the Dusseldorf academy under Schirmer, and became a friend of Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach. He is associated with the Dusseldorf school of painting. Schirmer, who recognized in him a student of exceptional promise, sent him to Antwerp and Brussels, where he copied the works of Flemish and Dutch masters. Bocklin then went to Paris, worked at the Louvre, and painted several landscapes.