James Kerr-Lawson, whose work is characterized by fine drawing and flat tonalities, had a preference for the architectural, which is reflected in his murals. He was also an accomplished lithographer.
Born in Scotland in 1862, Kerr-Lawson moved to Canada with his family at the age of three, and studied at the Ontario School of Art from 1879 to1886. In the late 1880s, he studied abroad at the Académie de France, the Academia di Belle Arte and the Académie Julian in Paris. His portraits and landscapes of the late 1890s were influenced by the Realist plein air painter Jules Bastien-Lepage, while his decorative paintings of the early 1900s are reminiscent of Venetian painters Canaletto and Tiepolo. Upon his return to Canada in 1885, he associated with other Canadian painters such as Homer Watson. Two years later, he settled in London, England. Kerr-Lawson was commissioned by Lord Beaverbrook in 1916 to paint scenes of the decimated French and Belgian cities, Arras and Ypres, after he served in World War I. The paintings were installed in a room of the Canadian War Records in 1921.
Kerr-Lawson was a founder of the Senefelder Club in 1908, which attempted to revive interest in the art of lithography (Mrs. Wood, c. 1909–1910). He also held a membership with the Canadian Art Club from 1912 to 1915 while living abroad. His decorative pieces of Arras and Ypres can be seen today in the Senate building in Ottawa, Canada.