Lemuel Eldred was born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, just across the channel from the historic whaling port of New Bedford. His body of work is made up mainly of landscapes and local harbor views which reflect a substantial familiarity with the ships and waterfronts of New England. His early education as a painter came from studies with William Mosher and Caleb Purrington along with his good friend and greatest influence, William Bradford.
After working with Bradford in both Fairhaven and New York City, Eldred began his own painting career by opening a successful studio in Boston. With the proceeds he earned in Boston he was able to finance a trip to Europe from 1880 to 1883 where he studied formally at the Academie Julian in Paris. During this period he created many works featuring European subjects. By 1900 he had begun etching and producing prints of many of his works.
In later years he divided his time between Boston and Fairhaven, where he set up shop in William Bradford's old studio. His work was exhibited at the National Academy in 1876 and at the Boston Art Club 1876-1886. His paintings are noted for their strong luminous quality, reminiscent of Bradford and Fitz Hugh Lane.