João Marques da Silva Oliveira was born in Porto on August 23, 1853. He began his artistic training with the painter António José da Costa, before enrolling in the Academia Portuense de Belas-Artes. He attended this Academy between 1864 and 1873, receiving tuition from Tadeu de Almeida Furtado and João António Correia among others. In 1873 he competed for the state scholarship abroad in the class of historical painting at the same time as Silva Porto, who was a candidate in the landscape category.

In Paris he enrolled in the École National des Beaux-Arts where among his teachers were masters such as Cabanel and Yvon. In this city he had the opportunity to contact with new aesthetic tendencies, namely with the artists associated with the Barbizon school. After a study trip to Belgium, Holland and England, he left for Italy in 1876, where he stayed until mid 1878, the year in which he returned to Paris.

Having returned definitively to Portugal in 1879, he was appointed to the Academia Portuense. In 1881 he substituted Tadeu Furtado in the chair of historical drawing and in 1895 he was transferred to that of historical painting, in substitution of João António Correia. His educational activity extended until 1926, being marked by the initiation of students into the new aesthetics of Naturalism. He promoted work sessions in the open-air, stimulating the exercise of painting in direct contact with nature, insisting on the quality of the drawing as the base for executing any work.

In a similar fashion to the involvement of Silva Porto in the genesis of the Grupo do Leão in Lisbon, Marques de Oliveira actively participated in artistic renewal movements in Porto. Apart from his teaching activity, he participated in the foundation of the Centro Artístico Portuense in 1880 and its respective organ A Arte Portuguesa and later in the organization of the art exhibitions that took place in the Ateneu Comercial do Porto.

Within the extensive corpus of work that the artist painted, dispersed over public and private institutions and private collections, particular significance is assumed by those dedicated to the great themes of landscape and portrait. His activity was further distinguished by commissions for decorative and religious painting, and furthermore by illustration for books and magazines. Throughout his career, Marques de Oliveira participated in numerous national and international exhibitions. In 1929, two years after his death, a monument was inaugurated in the Jardim de S. Lázaro, Porto in homage to his memory and a major exhibition of his work was held in the Ateneu Comercial do Porto.