Primarily a landscape painter, Jonas Lie was born in Oslo, Norway and immigrated to the United States in 1893 with his family. His father's death when Lie was 12 and subsequent financial misfortune required that Lie start working at 17. He spent nine years designing calico shirts at a cotton mill, continuing his art studies at night at the National Academy of Design, then later at Cooper Union and at the Art Students League. In 1906, after a trip to Norway, Lie decided to quit the mill and try making a living as a full time artist and art teacher.
As Lie's fame grew, he was able to eventually move to a large New York studio located at 40 W. 59th Street. Married twice, it was after the death of his second wife, well-known Norwegian ballet dancer Inga Sontum, that their daughter Sonia became his social companion. The two were well known among prominent New York society, developing a close friendship with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. On a visit to the Roosevelt's summer home at Campobello Island, New Brunswick in 1933, Lie would paint "Amber Light (Amber Jack II)" which he would gift to F.D.R.; the painting hung in the Oval Office during Roosevelt's presidency.
As well as his landscapes, Lie produced a large number of quality marine paintings. He was quite prolific and enjoyed a considerable international reputation winning numerous awards and medals throughout his successful career.In his later years Lie was a member of many fine art organizations including the prestigious Salmagundi Club, the Federation of American Arts, and was active and became president of the National Academy of Design.