Sir James Jebusa Shannon, was born in rural Auburn, New York and he spent his youth in Canada. In 1878, at the age of sixteen, he travelled alone to England, where he trained under Sir Edward John Poynter (1836-1919) at the South Kensington School of Art (now the Royal College of Art) until 1881. The first of his many international honours was a gold medal at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle. Over the course of his career he engaged a variety of styles, and exhibited widely at the Grosvenor Gallery, the New Gallery, the New English Art Club, and the London Royal Academy of Arts, where he was elected a full member in 1909.
Shannon was a founding member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters where he was president from 1910 to 1923. His contributions to the arts were officially recognized when he received a knighthood from King George V in 1922, and his work is represented in major public and private collections throughout the United Kingdom and the United States, including Tate Britain, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and The Royal Academy of Arts.