b. Birnbaum, 1866 - d. Berlin, 1931
Ury Lesser was a German-Jewish painter who was born in Prussia. At the age of 12, he ran away from home to escape the poverty-stricken life of his family and became apprenticed to a clothing merchant in Berlin. After saving enough money, he went to study art in Dusseldorf, Brussels, and Paris. He won a prize awarded by the Berlin Academy of Art, which enabled him to study in Italy. He returned to Berlin and made it his home, but he continued to lead the asocial life of a destitute vagrant. Lesser produced many works—oils, drawings, lithographs, and etchings—but he particularly excelled in pastels, and, indeed, he is considered one of the most important pastellists of the 19th century. In his later years, his melancholic paintings of urban scenes in stormy weather gained recognition and sold for high prices. At the time of Lesser's death, his fame spread far beyond Germany.