Rowland Lyon was a curator at the Smithsonian Institution's National Collection of Fine Arts (now the Smithsonian American Art Museum) for sixteen years until his death in 1966. He studied history at the George Washington University and devoted his summers to painting at the Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts. In the early 1930s he was an illustrator for the Washington Evening Star and later worked as a mapmaker for the State Department during World War II. Lyon was active in the art scene in Washington, D.C. He often exhibited at local museums, won area art competitions, and was the president of the Washington Society of Artists. Lyon experimented with different techniques, including wood carving and printmaking, and created images inspired by the life and energy of his Washington neighborhood.