Henry Herbert La Thangue attended Dulwich College where he met fellow painters Stanhope Forbes and Frederick Goodall. He enrolled briefly at the Lambeth School of Art before entering the Royal Academy schools around 1874.
In December 1879 he was awarded a gold medal and a travelling scholarship along with a letter of introduction from Frederic Leighton to Jean-Léon Gérôme, under whom he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris. While there he was influenced by the rustic naturalist painters of the Salon and by Whistler.
La Thangue spent the summers of 1881 and 1882 working on the Brittany coast with Forbes and a wide circle of plein-air painters, including Bastien-Lepage. In 1883 he and the sculptor James Havard Thomas went to Donzère in the Rhône Valley. La Thangue was noted for his strong convictions and forceful personality. In 1886, having completed his studies in Paris, he was the instigator of an abortive movement to reform the Royal Academy.
La Thangue lived for a time in Norfolk, painting scenes of Fenland life in a characteristic square-brush manner. He established a clientele among wealthy mill owners in Yorkshire, many of whom were forming collections of contemporary art, and during the late 1880s he regularly visited Bradford as president of that city’s Arcadian Art Club.
In the following years La Thangue’s work showed a growing interest in French Impressionism. He travelled to Provence and Liguria, and scenes from these travels gradually infiltrated his work as he increasingly regretted the decline of village life in
England. Just before the outbreak of World War I he staged a one-man exhibition at the Leicester Galleries, where he showed a wide selection of landscapes from southern Europe. The exhibition was a critical success and was lavishly praised in The New Age (7 May 1914) by Walter Sickert, who found La Thangue’s use of the language of painting original.
After the war, La Thangue returned to Liguria, and during the 1920s his entire production was given over to scenes of orange groves and gardens. He died in a state of depression at the news that some of his paintings had been destroyed in a shipwreck off the coast of New Zealand.