Lesser Ury was born Leo Lesser Ury, the third son of a baker in Birnbaum. After the death of his father in 1872, Ury moved to Berlin with his family. In 1878, he quit school to begin his apprenticeship as a tradesman. In 1879, he quit this apprenticeship and started studying at the Kunstakademie in D√ľsseldorf. This began a decade of travels to several art schools throughout Europe.
In 1880, he traveled to Brussels and Antwerp. In 1881, he spent several months in Paris where he made his first attempts at painting city scenes, interiors and floral still lifes. In 1882, he studeid with Jean-Francois Portaels at the Acad√©mie Royale des Beaux-Artes in Brussels. In 1883, he moved to Paris to study with Jules Joseph Lef√®bvre. After being rejected by the Akademie in Berlin in 1885, he instead studied in Stuttgart and Karlsruhe. In 1886, he studied with Johann Caspar Herterich at the Akademie der Bildenden K√ľnste in Munich. In 1887, he finally returned to Berlin where he began a friendly relationship with Max Liebermann.
In 1889, Ury had his first show at Fritz Gurlitt's gallery. The public and the press criticized the show but Adolph von Menzel was still able to convince the Akademie to award him the Michael-Beer-Preis which allowed Ury to travel to Rome and Capri. Upon his return in 1893, Gurlitt held a one-man show featuring 67 of his paintings. Unfortunately, Ury's relationship with Liebermann dissolves and they become lifelong enemies.
In 1893, Ury joined the Munich Secession. While in Munich, he worked for the journal called Das Narrenschiff and met Hermann Stuck in 1898. In 1901, he moved back to Berlin.
In 1903, he met Meta Streiter who was his model and muse. In 1910, he participated in the Berliner Kunstaustellung. In 1914, he began working extensively in the graphic medium. Under the encouragement of Lovis Corinth, Ury had his first exhibition with the Berlin Secession in 1915. In 1916, Paul Cassirer held a successful retrospective which included 80 works. In 1920, Gurlitt published his first portfolio entitled Biblische Gestalten. In 1921, he became an honorary member of the Berlin Secession and in 1922 had a great exposition there featuring 150 paintings to commemorate his sixtieth birthday.
From 1929 until his death, his creativity diminished and he rarely left his apartment. In 1931, he painted several views through his window and his last self-portrait. Ury died in October of 1931. In 1932, the National Gallery in Breslau held a retrospective. Later that year, Cassirer sold his estate at auction.