Thérèse Schwartze was born on 20 December 1851 in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. She was the daughter of the painter Johan Georg Schwartze, who grew up in Philadelphia and trained in Düsseldorf. Schwartze received her first training from her father, before studying for a year at the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten. She then travelled to Munich and studied under Gabriel Max and Franz von Lenbach. In 1879 she went to Paris to continue her studies under Jean-Jacques Henner.