Arthur Lismer was born in Sheffield, England in 1885. He studied at Sheffield School of Art from 1899-1906 and the Académie royale des beaux-arts, in Antwerp for a year in 1906.
He moved to Canada in 1911, seeking work as a commercial illustrator. He met soon to be friends and Group of Seven members, J.E.H. MacDonald, Tom Thomson and F.H. Johnston, and Frank Carmichael at the Grip Engraving Co in Toronto.
In 1912 he returned to England to marry, then returning to Canada with friend and artist F.H. Varley. They settled in Toronto Ontario.
Leaving Toronto, Lismer began his career as an art educator and principal at the Victoria School of Art and Design in Halifax from 1916-19. During this time he painted views of Halifax harbour and returning troopships which became part of the Canadian War Records.
He returned to Toronto to taking the position of vice-president at the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1919 and in 1920 became a founding member of the Group of Seven. The Group of Seven were a notable Candian group of painters that gained international recognition for they style and depiction of Canadian landscapes.
From 1927 to 1938 he was the educational supervisor at the Art Gallery of Toronto, now Art Gallery of Ontario.
In 1932 he participated in a nationwide lecture tour. As a result he began teaching in South Africa for a year in 1936.
In 1938 he was visiting professor at Teachers' College, Columbia University. He ran the Montréal Children's Art Centre, affiliated with the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts from 1941 to 1967.
Most of Lismer's works were created after 1930. He painted expressionistic Canadian landscapes, often the Maritimes and Georgian Bay, and Long Beach on Vancouver Island, among other spots.
He died in Montréal in 1969.