Lucius O’Brien was born at Lake Simcoe in Ontario in 1832. In 1844, his family moved to Toronto where O’Brian attended college, taking classes in drawing. Quitting school to work as a civil engineer, he excelled as a draughtsman, largely teaching himself.
In 1870, he fully committed to art and engaged in the local art community, joining the Ontario Society of Artists (OSA) in 1872. A great champion of the arts nationwide, he became the first president of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1880. In 1882 and 1884 he was the art editor of two historically important publications of “Picturesque Canada.”
Beginning in 1886 and continuing for the next three years, O’Brien made annual trips west to paint the scenery of British Columbia. The artwork he produced during these years provided O’Brien with financial success.
O’Brien resigned his position as president of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1890, and withdrew from The OSA in 1892. He nevertheless continued to produce landscapes of distinction, focusing on eastern Canadian scenes.