Frank Fehrenbach studied art history, history and philosophy in Tübingen and Basel, was a fellow in the working group on the cultural history of nature at the Institute for Cultural Studies in Essen from 1992 to 1995, and received his doctorate in 1995 from the University of Tübingen. As a post-doctoral student he was at the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome in 1995/96, an assistant at the Art History Institute in Florence from 1996 to 2001, and completed his habilitation in Basel in 2003. From 2003 to 2005 he was a fellow of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. From 2005 he was a senior professor at Harvard University. In 2013 he received a Humboldt Professorship at the University of Hamburg. There he heads the Nature Images Research Center at the Art History Seminar.
He was visiting professor in Berlin and Jena and a 2010/11 fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin .
In 1996 he received the Hans Janssen Prize of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen and in 2004 the Science Prize of the Aby Warburg Foundation in Hamburg. He is a member of the Academy of Sciences in Hamburg .