Known primarily as a still-life and landscape painter, Adam Lehr was born in Cleveland (Cuyahoga County), Ohio. The son of John Lehr, a German-born shoemaker, he worked in his youth for a house painter, then found a more “artistic” job in 1872 with James Chubb, a sign and ornamental painter.
In 1874, De Scott Evans accepted him as a pupil, and a year or two later he began attending Archibald M. Willard’s even sketch classes at the Cleveland Art Club. Progressing rapidly under Willard’s guidance, he soon left Chubb’s employ to decorate steamboats fore Willard’s brother, Charles A. Willard. In 1880, with financial assistance from Alexander Gunn, a Cleveland iron merchant, Lehr studied at the Art Students League in New York City, and after his return in 1881 he exhibited regularly with the Art Club, the Brush and Palette Club, the Water Color Society of Cleveland, and , from 1913 to 1923, the Cleveland Society of Artists.
Although by the standards of the day he enjoyed a successful career as a professional artist, he supplemented his income as late as 1898 by painting signs.