Born in Norwich, Joseph Stannard exhibited at the Norwich School of Artists from 1811 (when he was only 14) through to his death. He studied painting under Robert Ladbrooke, another Norwich School artist. In 1821 he visited Holland, and this strongly influenced his style, which was thereafter more highly finished in the Dutch style. His major work was the lively Thorpe Water Frolic (1825), and his subjects in oil (and less frequently watercolour) included the coasts, landscapes and river scenes of Norfolk. He was also an etcher of some repute.
Stannard married Emily Coppin (1803-1885), who became a still life painter and teacher, and his brother Alfred Stannard (1806-1889) was also a painter, of landscapes and marine subjects. His pupils included two offspring, Eloise Harriet Stannard (1829-1915) and Alfred George Stannard (1810-1873), and his most well known student was Henry Bright (1810-1873).
Examples of Stannard's work, including Thorpe Water Frolic, may be seen at the Norwich Castle Museum.