Michallon was the son of the sculptor Claude Michallon (1752-1799). Recognised for his artistic ability, around 1808 he entered the studio of Henry-François Mulard (1769-1850), history painter and follower of Jacques-Louis David. In 1810, aged thirteen, he entered the École des Beaux-Arts and about two years later became a student of the landscape specialist Jean-Victor Bertin (1767-1842). At some time between 1808 and 1811 he met the Russian diplomat prince Youssoupoff who provided him with an annual stipend until 1814. At the École he benefited from the perspective lectures of Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes. Partly on account of representations made by Michallon, the French Academy created the quadrennial Grand Prix de Rome for historical landscape, of which he was the first recipient in 1817. He arrived in Rome in January 1818 and took up residence in the Villa Medici as the first landscape specialist there. He had to develop his own course of study which consisted of sketching trips to the outskirts of Rome and voyages further afield to Naples and Sicily. Michallon was careful to develop his reputation back in Paris and regularly submitted to the Salon. He returned to the French capital in 1821 and the following year he set up a large teaching studio, numbering Corot among his pupils.