Leo Lesser Ury was born in Birnbaum in 1861. After the death of his father in 1872, he moved to Berlin with his family and in 1878 he began an apprenticeship as a tradesman. He quit the apprenticeship one year later and began studying at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. In the decade that followed, Ury traveled to several art schools throughout Europe. He traveled to Brussels and Antwerp in 1880, and the following year, he spent several months in Paris making his first attempts at painting city scenes, interiors and floral still lifes. In 1882, Ury studied at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Artes in Brussels with Francois Portaels and in 1883 he moved to Paris where he studied with Jules Joseph Lefebvre. In 1885, he was rejected by the Akademie in Berlin and instead, studied in Stuttgart and Karlsruhe.
Ury returned to Berlin in 1887 and began a friendship with Max Liebermann. His first show took place in 1889 at Fritz Gurlitt’s gallery and, although it was criticized by the public and press, Adolphe von Menzel was still able to convince the Akademie to award Ury the Michael-Beer-Preis, allowing him to travel to Rome and Capri. Ury returned from his travels in 1893 and was given a one-man show featuring 67 of his paintings. Around the same time, his relationship with Liebermann dissolved and the two became lifelong enemies.
Ury joined the Munich Secession in 1893 and began working for a journal called “Das Narrenschiff”. He moved back to Berlin in 1901 where he met Meta Streiter, a woman who became his model and muse. Ury participated in the Berliner Kunstaustellung in 1910 and in 1914 he began working extensively in the graphic medium. Encouraged by Louis Corinth, Ury had his first exhibition at the Berlin Secession in 1915 and in 1916 Paul Cassirer held a retrospective, which included 80 of Ury’s works. He became an honorary member of the Berlin Secession in 1921 and the following year, a great exposition was held there, featuring 150 works to commemorate his sixtieth birthday.
After 1929 Ury’s creativity diminished and he rarely left his apartment. He died in 1931 and in 1932 the National Gallery in Breslau held a retrospective of his work.