Lesser Ury was born in 1861 in Prussia. After the passing of his father, the family moved to Berlin. He worked as an apprentice to a clothing merchant until he saved enough money to study art in Düsseldorf at the Kunstakademie. He traveled extensively throughout Europe for many years continuing his studies and painting. He spent time in Paris painting floral still lifes, city scenes and interiors during 1881. It is believed that he was strongly influenced by impressionist painter Degas, who painted similar subjects.
Ury was a master oil and pastel painter. Typical subjects found in his work are landscapes, rainy cityscapes and figures in café interiors. He had developed a pastel technique which enabled him to capture the air and light reflections of landscapes. Ury returned to Berlin in 1887. Other Berlin artists working at the time were united in artistic philosophy, but Lesser Ury, always an introvert, followed his own unique style and instincts.
The Fritz Gurlitt Gallery gave Ury his first show in 1889. His work received much criticism but eventually the Akademie would award him the Michael-Beer-Preis. The award provided the finances for him to continue to travel.
When he returned to Berlin in 1893, he was given a one-man show and joined the Munich Secession, a group of progressive artists from Germany and Austria. He would go on to exhibit at the Berlin Seccession in 1915 and became an honorary member six years later. In 1922, his sixtieth birthday was honored with an exhibition and featured 150 of his works. His health began to decline after a heart attack in 1928 and Lesser Ury died in 1931 in his studio in Berlin.
The German art community did not appreciate his work very late in his career. Much of his work was destroyed by the Nazi’s as were many pieces from Jewish artists. Today Lesser Ury is considered by many to be one of the most important pastel artists of the 19th Century.