Alberto Pasini was born in Busseto on 3 September 1826 to Giuseppe and Adelaide Crotti Balestra. In 1828, after the death of his father, he moved with his mother to Parma. In 1843 he began his studies – never completing them – at the local Accademia di Belle Arti, choosing from the beginning landscape painting and scenery design given by Giuseppe Boccaccio, and then in 1848, drawing and lithographic printing given by the engraver, Paolo Toschi. In 1849, he took park in the first war of independence in the volunteer regiment of Modena. When he returned to Parma, other than working on publicity signs for various shops, he completed Thirty views of castles in Piacentino, Lunigiana and Parmigiano: lithographs that he created and printed in Parma at the Zucci Printers (1850-51) and then, in part, highlighted with oil paint and watercolour. Encouraged by the artist, Toschi, in 1851 he moved to Paris. Here Pasini worked for the studio of the lithographer, Étienne Eugène Cicéri. Thanks to Cicéri, owner of a countryside house in Marlotte, near to Fontainbleau, he came into contact with the landscape painters of the École de Barbizon (1852-53), and dedicated himself to oil painting en plein air. In 1854, he opened a studio with the painter, Théodore Chassériau, whilst the following year he takes part as the illustrator of the colonial mission in Persia, Turkey, Arabia and Egypt with the lead-diplomat, Prosper Bourée. During the mission, which lasted eighteen months, Pasini documented the trip with a series of drawings that the artist would later use as a font of inspiration. When he returned to Paris in 1856 he moved to the Pigalle neighbourhood, where he took private lessons in painting and completed commissioned paintings for wealthy collectors and auction houses. On 10 December of the same year, he received an honorary academic position at the Accademia di Parma, the first formal recognition of his professional career. In 1859 he travelled again to the Middle East, with stops in Egypt, Palestine, Persia, Lebanon and then Greece. After his return to Paris he completed a series of oil paintings in memory of his travels, primarily using his drawings completed in situ. In 1860, he refused the offer of Head of landscape at the Accademia di Parma, vacant after the sudden death of Luigi Marchesi. In October 1867, he stayed for nine months in Constantinople where he completed fifty one oil studies, amongst which, Perchembé Bazar (1868, Paris, Musée d’Orsay), Costantinopole Market (1868, Madrid, Museo Thissen-Bornemisza) and Door of the Yeni Djami Mosque in Costantinopole (1870, Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts). Despite keeping a house in Paris until the end of the 1890s, Pasini bought a large house, ‘Rabaja’, in 1870. The house, in the oriental style of the period, was situated on the cape that dominates the Moncalieri highway and the Sabaudia road in the Cavoretto neighbourhood in Turin. In 1878 he took part in the Universal Exhibition in Paris with eleven works, where he was awarded the Legion d’honneur, the gold medal of the Salon, and the gold medal for the Italian section. The following year, he visited Cordova and Granada together with the painter, Jean-Léon Gérôme and the art dealer, Adolphe Goupil: a trip they would repeat in 1883. From 1887 onwards, his travels are less frequent, only doing so to attend his solo exhibitions: Paris for the Salons (from 1853 to 1896) and London for the Italian Fine Art Exhibition of 1888. Between 1891 and 1899 he completed the series of paintings dedicated to Cavoretto and the castle at Issogne. In 1895, he was amongst the members of the selection committee of the Venice Biennale, whilst in 1898 he is called to preside over the select committee for the National Exhibition in Turin.
He died in Cavaretto on 15 December 1899.