James Eckford Lauder was inspired to become an artist by the example of his elder brother Robert Scott Lauder, from whom he received early artistic training. From 1830-3 he studied under William Allan and Thomas Duncan at the Trustees’ Academy in Edinburgh. Following this, he spent four years in Italy with his brother, where he studied and made copies after the old masters. The subjects of his early work were largely drawn from Scott, Shakespeare or his Italian surroundings. On his return, he exhibited annually at the Royal Scottish Academy, where he was elected as an associate in 1839, and a full academician in 1846. He continued to produce historical and literary subjects until the late 1850s, when he turned to landscape. This move was unsuccessful and he struggled to find a market for his work.