Born in Staffordshire, England, Louis John Rhead studied at the National Art Training School in London and in Paris with Gustave-Rodolphe-Clarence Boulanger. In 1883 he moved to New York, where he worked as art director for the publisher D. Appleton for six years. Rhead also designed patterns for ceramic painting and art needlework for women's magazines, as well as designing book covers and painting. From 1891 to 1894 he continued his studies in London and Paris, influenced by the Swiss-French artist Eugène Grasset's style, which infused his posters with moral content. Rhead was also influenced by Walter Crane and William Morris, two English artists involved with the Aesthetic movement.
In the 1890s Rhead designed nearly one hundred posters. His first posters were done in England for Cassell's Magazine and the Weekly Dispatch, and also for Phitesi boots. In the United States he created posters for a variety of magazines, including The Century, St. Nicholas, Harper's, The Bookman, and Scribner's. He also produced large one- and two-sheet posters for the New York Sun and the New York Journal, and commercial posters for the printing firm Louis Prang and Company, as well as for products such as Lundborg perfumes, Pearline washing powders, and Packer's soap.
Rhead's posters were widely acclaimed; solo exhibitions of his work were presented in London in 1896 and in Paris at the Salon des Cent in 1897. After 1900, Rhead created illustrations for literary works and wrote several books on fishing.
Therese Thau Heyman Posters American Style (New York and Washington, D.C.: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., in association with the National Museum of American Art, 1998)