The son of Giovanni Signorini, a well-known painter of views in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, Telemaco enrolled at the Florence Academy of Fine Arts in 1852. He experimented with painting from life together with his friends Odoardo Borrani and Vincenzo Cabianca and was one of the group of Macchiaioli painters who gathered in the Caffè Michelangelo. Having served as a volunteer in the second war of independence in 1859 and returned from the front, he made a trip to Paris two years later. It was in 1862 that Signorini, Giuseppe Abbati, Odoardo Borrani and Raffaello Sernesi began to experiment with the Macchiaioli painting technique in the countryside just outside Florence, thus creating what is known as the Piagentina School. Signorini also used these developments in socially committed works like The Ward of Mad Women at San Bonifazio in Florence (1865, Venice, Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna di Ca’ Pesaro). He founded the magazine Il Gazzettino delle Arti del Disegno with Diego Martelli in 1867, thus embarking on a career as art critic and writer. The numerous trips made in the following years included Paris in 1869, the areas of the Marne and the Seine with Giovanni Boldini in 1873–74 and England and Scotland in 1881. He returned to Paris and London in 1884, exhibiting a number of seascapes with considerable success.