The only son of a Norwegian civil engineer and an American woman from Hartford, CT, Jonas Lie’s family included important Norwegian writers, musicians and painters, and the family home greeted guests such as Edvard Grieg and Henrik Ibsen.
When his father died while his mother and sister were visiting America, Lie lived for a year with his uncle in Paris, the well-known writer Jonas Lauritz Edemil Lie. Rejoining his family in New York, Lie studied at the Ethical Culture School on a scholarship and took classes in life drawing and outdoor painting. From 1897-1906 he designed calico patterns for a textile factory in New York, while studying art at every opportunity. He made his debut at the National Academy in 1901. His early works were tonalist landscapes, but his range expanded after visits to Paris in 1906 and 1909, where he was influenced by the Impressionists and also admired the work of Matisse and Gauguin. In 1913 he exhibited five paintings in the Armory Show.