Livens was born in Croydon in 1862, the son of a colonial broker. He attended the Croydon School of Art whilst working at his father’s office in the City. He then attended the Fine Arts Academy in Antwerp, where he met Van Gogh. Indeed, he is probably best known for having painted the earliest known portrait of the artist.
Van Gogh invited Livens to Paris, where he spent more time studying, particuarly the works of Whistler and Japanese prints. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1890 – 1899, as well as the NEAC, the Grosvenor gallery and abroad. Unfortunately many of his works were lost in the Blitz and in a fire in his widow’s home in Harrow in 1957.