Harry Emerson Lewis, born in Kansas in 1892, grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and studied art at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois from 1912 - 1913.
During World War I, he used his art training and served as an instructor in camouflage. After the war, he remained in Europe to study art at Florence, Milan, and at the Sorbonne in Paris. When he returned to the United States, he worked at the studio of Alexander Robinson in Boston and then attended the Art Institute of Chicago where he remained to teach until his move to California in 1924.
Lewis first settled in Hollywood, and then ventured north to San Francisco in 1931. He made his home was across the bay (before the Bay had bridges) in the Marin County town of Corte Madera. He was quite active in the Bay Area Art community. In 1945, he moved back south to Laguna Beach.