Born in Boston, Currier studied initially with Samuel Gerry (1813–1891), George Fuller (1822–1884), and probably William Morris Hunt (1824–1879). He traveled to Europe in 1869 and first attended the Royal Academy in Antwerp, intending to study in Paris beginning in 1870. However, the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in July led him to Munich instead. He enrolled at the Royal Academy in January 1871 and studied painting under Georg Raab (1821–1885) and Alexander von Wagner (1838–1919). He quickly joined the American circle, and he and Duveneck became leaders of the group.
Currier’s approach, like that of the other American members of the Munich School, was based on a love for the process of painting and a desire to maintain the fresh, spontaneous power of the artist’s touch. When Currier first arrived in Munich, the most influential of the German teachers was Wilhelm Liebl (1844–1900), who promoted the technique of painting alla prima, that is, blending strokes of paint directly on the canvas while the surface remained wet.