Edwin Lord Weeks was born at Boston, Massachusetts. His parents were affluent spice and tea merchants from Newton, a suburb of Boston, and as such they were able to accept, probably encourage, and certainly finance their son's youthful interest in painting and traveling.
As a young man Edwin Lord Weeks visited the Florida Keys to draw and also traveled to Surinam in South America. His earliest known paintings date from 1867 when Edwin Lord Weeks was eighteen years old, although it is not until his "Landscape with Blue Heron", dated 1871 and painted in the Everglades, that Edwin Lord Weeks started to exhibit a dexterity of technique and eye for composition - presumably having taken professional tuition.
In 1870, at the age of twenty-one, Weeks opened a studio in Newton.
Weeks traveled to Egypt, the Holy Land and Syria. A painting depicting the port of Tangiers dated 1872 survives from this period and appears to be one of the first of his works in the Orientalist style that he became well known for.
Having arrived in Paris, Weeks tried to enroll at the atelier of Gérôme in the École des Beaux-Arts. However, while waiting for his application to be accepted, he started to work in the private atelier of Léon Bonnat, where he decided to stay.
Weeks traveled extensively in North Africa and, in 1883, India - where he spent 2 years traveling. India was a field that had been virtually ignored by his contemporary painters. Weeks was who best expressed the romance and splendor of Indian civilization, which was properly recognized when he was invited to exhibit a large collection of his works at the Empire of India Exhibition held in London in 1895. He was honored there with a special medal for his contributions, and would receive medals and decorations from the governments of Germany and France as well - in 1896 he was made a Knight of the French Legion of Honor.
In 1895 he wrote and illustrated a book of travels, "From the Black Sea through Persia and India", and two years later he published "Episodes of Mountaineering".
Weeks continued to paint right up to his death in 1903.