Sir Alfred Edward East was born in Kettering in Northamptonshire and studied at the Glasgow School of Art. His romantic landscapes, with their tonal qualities, color, loose brushwork and softness of form, show the influence of the Barbizon School of Art.
He exhibited widely, and in 1906 he was elected President of the Royal Society of British Artists, a position he held until his death. He was awarded a Knighthood in 1910 by King Edward VII. East was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1899, having been a regular exhibitor since 1883, and elected to full membership in 1913.