Poingdestre was the son of John Matthews Poingdestre and Caroline Harris. He was born in St Helier in 1829 and was to become president of the British Academy in Rome, where he lived and worked for more than 30 years.
He loved painting scenes of Italian peasant life and exhibited many times at the Royal Academy until 1901.
He was a well-known figure in Rome, patronising the cafes at night. He returned to Jersey frequently and painted some of his Italian subjects at home there, as well as pictures of the Jersey countryside.