Having served as a volunteer in the second war of independence, Poma embarked on a military career but retired from the army in 1866 after contracting malaria. On his return to Milan, he worked in the studios of the soldier-painters Giovan Battista Lelli and Gerolamo Induno, his comrades in the military campaign of 1859. He made his debut at the Esposizione di Belle Arti di Brera of 1869 but received no official recognition until halfway through the following decade. A painting of a historical subject in a broad natural setting of Romantic character won the Mylius Prize of the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in 1876 and a landscape exhibited in Naples at the Esposizione Nazionale di Napoli was bought by Vittorio Emanuele II in 1877. Poma established his reputation as a landscape painter with a repertoire of lake views that are intimist in character while also displaying the influence of his contemporary Filippo Carcano in their realistic approach. The period from 1883 on saw an increase in activity with the systematic presentation of works at national exhibitions and lasting success on the art market.