Born in Oswego, New York, James Gale Tyler began painting at the age of fifteen. Fascinated by the sea and its vessels, he moved to New York City where he studied briefly under the marine painter, Archibald Cary Smith. The tutelage was the only formal training Tyler ever received; yet he went on to become one of the most notable marine painters and illustrators of his day.
During his lifetime and after James Tyler's marine paintings were highly sought after by collectors. His works in fact were so popular that they were conspicuously forged even during his lifetime. In 1918 more than 100 works falsely carried his name. Fortunately he successfully pursued several civil action suits to protect the integrity of his work.
Tyler lived most of his life in Greenwich, Connecticut but also maintained studios in New York City from 1882 through 1899 and in Providence in the mid 1880's. Later in his career Tyler would travel each year from 1900 to 1930 to Newport, Rhode Island where he would paint pictures of the America's Cup Race. Many of these works were commissioned; the remainder were widely exhibited and critically acclaimed. He also capitalized on the money to be made through magazine illustrations, and was a regular contributing writer and illustrator for some major publications of the time, including Harper's, Century, and Literary Digest.