Emil Zschimmer trained as a pattern maker in a calico factory in Eilenburg until 1863. This was followed by nine years of study at the Grand Ducal Saxon Art School in Weimar with Arthur von Ramberg, Ferdinand Pauwels and Alexander Michelis. In 1872 he had his first artistic success at the Academic Art Exhibition in Berlin. Three years later he became a teacher at the Princely Free Drawing School in Weimar. This was followed by teaching activities at the Grand Ducal Saxon Art School in Weimar and at the Royal Gymnasium in Erfurt, which earned him the title of teacher in 1890. In 1891 he stopped teaching and moved to Bad Schmiedeberg, where he painted hundreds of views of the Düben Heath in his new villa.