Born in Cologne, Germany, Severin Roesen began his career as a porcelain and still-life painter. He emigrated to America in 1848 and shortly thereafter married Wilhelmina Ludwig, by whom he had three children. Roesen spent ten years in New York City, from 1848 to 1857, where he sold eleven of his paintings through the American Art-Union.
In 1857, he left his family, most likely in search of a better market for his paintings, and went to Pennsylvania. In 1863, he exhibited a painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, and about that time he moved to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where he spent the rest of his active years. It is thought that sometime around 1872 Roesen traveled back to New York City to spend his final years with his family, but no record of his residence during that period has yet been found.