He received his earliest training from his father, the painter Johann Georg Pforr (1745-98), and his uncle, the art professor and first inspector of the painting gallery in Kassel, Johann Heinrich Tischbein the younger (1742-1808). In 1805 he became a student at the Akademie der Bildenden Kenste in Vienna, which was dominated by the severe Neo-classicism of its director, Heinrich Feger; he was taught by Hubert Maurer (1738-1818), Franz Cauzig (1762-1828) and Johann Martin Fischer. During the war with France in 1805, Pforr volunteered as a guard in the Vienna militia. He suffered a nervous breakdown, brought on by the conflict between his passionate longing for a contemplative life and a desire to see military action. He probably turned to religion to help sustain his mental equilibrium. In 1806 he resumed his academic studies and, believing himself destined to become a battle painter, made numerous drawings of historical battles, for example his still schoolish and baroquely composed Wallenstein in the Battle of L?tzen (1806; Frankfurt am Main, Stedel. Kstinst. & St?dt. Gal.). However, it was not until 1807, with Drawing with Twelve Travel Sketches (Frankfurt am Main, Stadt- & Ubib.), that he first began to overcome his beginner style and to develop his own. This resulted in reduced detail, simplified continuous contours, a structuring by means of planar rather than illusionistic criteria, a new clarity of vision and a chastened balance between nature and artistic conception.