Born in Peebleshire, Henry John Dobson trained at the School of Design at the Royal Institution in Edinburgh. He exhibited regularly at the Royal Scottish Academy and occasionally at the Royal Academy, London. Primarily a genre painter, Dobson depicted subjects from Scottish daily life, often with an emphasis on sentimental incidents. He also painted some fine watercolours and sensitive portraits. He travelled to the United States and Canada in 1911. His two sons, Cowan Dobson and Henry Raeburn Dobson, also became artists.