George Henry was born in Ayrshire and studied at the Glasgow School of Art and later at the informal classes held in the studio of W.Y. MacGregor. In 1881 he joined Guthrie, Walton and Crawhall to paint at Brig o' Turk in the Trossachs and in 1884 he was again with Guthrie and Walton at Cocksburnpath. In 1885 he met Edward Atkinson Hornel with whom he formed a life-long friendship and close working relationship; travelling to Japan together in 1893.
Hornel persuaded Henry to paint in Galloway and in the area around Kirkcudbright and Henry was to paint many of his most successful works there. Like Hornel, Henry differed from the other members of the Glasgow Boys, who at this time were painting naturalistic scenes inspired by Bastien-Lepage, prefering instead compositions with strong colours and patterns which were concerned with the overall decorative effect. After 1886 Henry developed his style, changing his handling of paint and placing his figures in a confined space; narrowing the field of view to leave little or no recession in the picture.