A portrait painter by trade, Thomas LeClear would be well known for his scenes of children. He was also famous for his work "Interior with Portraits" which addressed the advent of portrait photography and its place in the world of the portrait painter. Additionally, he was one of the primary artists working in Buffalo, New York's first active period of art in the mid 1800s.
He had very little professional training, and began taking portrait commissions and even decorative panels on a steamboat, though he admitted to disgust when the owners requested "low art" and the sixteen year-old artist had wanted to depict historical scenes. His work was a success and he soon found himself working as a professional artist in Buffalo, New York.
In 1861 he relocated to New York City, where he opened his own studio in 1863. LeClear was still a major player in the Buffalo art scene however, and was soon back in the area working at the newly established Buffalo Fine Arts Academy. He was instructing privately as well as continuing with his commission work. It was during this period that he painted "Interior with Portraits" which became one of the most debated and discussed paintings of the age.
His commission works continued throughout his career, and LeClear would exhibit widely, including at the National Academy of Design in New York and the Royal Academy in London.
His works are in the collections of several major museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Portrait Gallery (both in Washington, D.C.) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.