A muralist known for his work in many "American Renaissance" buildings, Edwin Howland Blashfield was not well known until the age of forty-five. He studied briefly in Boston with Thomas Johnston and William Rimmer before travelling to Paris in 1867. He was a pupil of Leon Bonnat, and close friend of Jean Leon Gerome. He travelled widely while in Europe, but remained true to his academic style, though he would always be noted for his delicate work and abilities as a colorist.
He returned to the United States in 1881, and opened his own studio for the next six years. In 1888 he was elected as a member of the National Academy of Design, but was at that time traveling through Egypt, Europe and England where he was making close observations of classic fresco paintings and mural design.
He gained overnight celebrity for his work in the 1893 Chicago World's Fair Exposition, where he painted a mural titled "The Art of Metal Working". The prosperity of America was being celebrated everywhere, including decorative arts, and his theme and style was incredibly successful.
He continued to win commissions from around the country, including the Library of Congress and several state capitols. He remained active in many artistic and cultural organizations, and exhibited some of his easel paintings regularly. In 1913 he wrote a book on mural painting, and differentiated it from easel painting by its intention, which was to teach lessons about morality, patriotism and history.
Blashfield's method was to paint the mural on canvas in his studio and then mount it at the location. He usually composed detailed sketches that he then painted in oil on canvas.
His easel paintings can be seen in many museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Union League Club of Chicago.