H. Siddons Mowbray was born Harry Siddons in Alexandria, Egypt where his father was employed in a British bank office. Both of Mowbray's parents died early in his childhood and he was adopted by his uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. George Mowbray, and raised by them in Titusville, Pennsylvania and North Adams, Massachusetts. Mowbray's first lessons in painting were provided by Alfred C. Howland. In early 1878, Mowbray went to Paris to study with Leon Bonnat and Jean Leon Gerome; following both these artists' examples, Mowbray developed a technique emphasizing careful drawing and finish and, like Gerome, showed an early preference for Near Eastern subjects--although Mowbray's paintings were generally executed on an almost miniature scale.
Richly draped women at repose in ornate interiors were Mowbray's speciality, although he would vary his settings among Greek, Florentine and Moorish styles. Rarer in his oeuvre are scenes of idealized figures out-of-doors, playing musical instruments among the flowers.
Three years after returning to the United States from his studies abroad, Mowbray was chosen to be one of forty artists featured in Lippincott's Book of American Figure Painters. "Fairy Music" was the painting selected to illustrate his work; it was accompanied by the following lines from John Dryden:
"O, lull me, lull me, charming Air!
My senses rock with wonder sweet!
Like snow on wool thy failings are;
Soft, like a spirit's, are thy feet.
Grief who need fear
that hath an ear?
Down let him lie,
and slumbering die,
And change his soul for harmony."