Victor Fontaine was born in Cuesmes, a village between Mons and le Borinage, 42 years before the young Van Gogh arrived as an evangelizing preacher to the miners of the region. Fontaine attended the Atelier Saint-Luc in Wolstraat, the Académie des Beaux-Arts de Mons, now the Ecole supérieure des Arts plastiques et visuals, and the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. In the 1860s, his style seems to have inclined to symbolism, but by the 1870s he was working in a more realist mode. He seems to have lived mainly in Brussels from the time he left the Académie, working en plein air with artists such as Félicien Rops, and – in 1875 – joining La Chrysalide, a progressive art movement which took over from the Société Libre des Beaux-Arts (Ensor first exhibited with La Chrysalide in 1881). It was formed in opposition to the official, conservative salons, and provided a means for its members to exhibit. It was replaced after its demise in the early 1880s by Les XX. Fontaine is noted particularly for all genres of arts based on the human form – portraits, figure studies, nudes and pictures of children; he also produced still life paintings. He exhibited for some years with the Cercle Artistique et Littéraire, Brussels.
Works in public collections include paintings in the Académie of Mons, and the Musée de Namur.