JF Lewis was born in 1805 into an aristocratic family with an artistic background. Both his father and uncle were artists and Lewis himself became a pupil of the great Sir Thomas Lawrence. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy at the young age of 16, although he did not become a full member of the Academy until 1865.
Lewiss wealth allowed him to travel, especially to Italy and Spain, and he became known for his paintings of animals, landscapes and genre scenes, especially those featuring Spanish and oriental subjects. His Spanish work in particular was distinguished by the rich colouration and picturesque costumes of his subjects.
He also travelled to Egypt and the surrounding area and lived in the East from 1843 to 1851. Lewis died in Genoa in 1875.