Bilders was born in Utrecht in 1811 as the son of the baker's assistant Albertus Gerardus Bilders and Elisabeth van Springen. He attended the Royal Academy of Visual Arts in Amsterdam and, with a brief three-year hiatus spent in the army, was further trained as a painter by Jonxis. He subsequently trained himself further through study exercises in nature, in the vicinity of Vorden, Oosterbeek, Wolfheze and Doorwerth. During the year 1844 he made a study trip through Germany, especially through the Black Forest, the surroundings of Biebrich and Mainz. In 1859, at the invitation of the king, he made drawings at Wiesbaden.
Examples of his artworks from that time include Landscape in the Black Forest (1860) and View of the Monastery of Clarenthal near Wiesbaden (1867). Bilders first settled temporarily in Utrecht and in 1854 in Amsterdam, but spent most of his time in Oosterbeek, which remained his permanent residence. Within the Netherlands he traveled to Drenthe and Groningen (Vlagtwedde) to make studies. He regularly sent his works to official exhibitions. Around 1870 Bilders started making charcoal drawings. Bilders was an important painter from the generation that immediately preceded the Hague School, especially as a romantic of the landscape. His students included Hendrik Willem Mesdag, Dirk van Lokhorst and Anton Mauve. Together with Mauve, among others, he was one of the founders of the Hollandsche Teekenmaatschappij.
Bilders was married twice. He married Frederika Staudenmayer on November 27, 1834 in Darthuizen. From this marriage a son Albertus Gerardus was born, who, like his father, became a painter and a daughter Caroline, who married the painter Jan de Haas (1832-1908). His first wife, son and daughter died of tuberculosis.  Bilders remarried on 15 April 1880 in The Hague to Maria Philippina van Bosse, daughter of the liberal minister Pieter Philip van Bosse, who died in 1879. He died in October 1890 at the age of 79 in his hometown Oosterbeek.
Immerzeel 1842-1843 , vol. 1 (1842), p. 55-56
Kramm 1857-1864 , vol. 1 (1957), p. 95; suppl. (1864), p. 13
Von Wurzbach 1906-1911 , vol. 1 (1906), p. 99
Thieme/Becker 1907-1950 , vol. 4 (1910), p. 25-26
Molhuysen/Blok et al. 1911-1937 , vol. 1 (1911), kol. 351-352
Waller 1938/1974 , p. 28
Scheen 1969-1970 , vol. 1, p. 95-96
Witt Checklist 1978
Scheen 1981 , p. 43 (as: Bilders, Johannes Warnardus;*)
Saur 1992- , vol. 11 (1995), p. 8-9
Bénézit 1999 , vol. 2, p. 312-313