Born in London and studied engraving with his father, Frederick Christian Lewis. Very soon, however, he turned to watercolors, gradually acquiring a considerable reputation in this environment. Lewis was among the first and greatest British artists of the Orientalists. He spent years in Spain, Greece and Egypt, and on his return to London in 1851, was considered an eminent watercolourist. He sought to adapt the delicate colors of watercolor to the Sunny Eastern images, and, according to John Ruskin and other critics, the perfection of this method has brought him deserved fame. In later years he turned to oil painting in the same style. He exhibited at the Royal Academy until his death.
The son of painter and graphic artist Frederick Christian Lewis. A significant part of his life the artist spent in England. Lived in Italy, 1840−1841 years spent in the Balkans; between 1832 and 1834 lived for years in Spain, in 1841−1850 — in Egypt (Cairo). In 1851 Lewis returned to England and until his death in 1876, lived in the small town of Walton-on-Thames.
In 1859, John. F. Lewis became a corresponding member of the Royal Academy; in 1865 he was already a full member of the Academy. Was also a member of the Royal society of watercolor artists.
Works are kept in various museums and collections of fine art, USA and the UK. After a long period of oblivion, the pictures of Lewis from the 1970s was once again in great demand among collectors and in international auctions are sold for amounts calculated in millions of pounds.