The son of a Devon shoemaker, Newbery trained at Bridport School of Art. He taught in London and also attended the National Art Training School, South Kensington. In 1885 he was appointed Director of Glasgow School of Art. Under his inspired leadership, the School acquired an international reputation. Amongst his contemporaries, he was associated with the Glasgow Boys, especially John Lavery, James Guthrie and Edward Walton. Newbery supported the young Charles Rennie Mackintosh, commissioning him to design the new building for the expanding School in 1896. In 1918 Newbery retired to Corfe Castle in Dorset where he devoted his time to painting.