John Fery’s given name was Johann Nepomuk Levy. Urged by his father to study art and literature, he enrolled at the Vienna Academy of Art in 1881-1883. He subsequently moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin after he was recruited by the American Panorama Co. to work on the Battle of Atlanta. At this time he legally changed his name to John Fery. He returned to Europe to marry, Mary Rose Kraemer. After the birth of their first child he returned to the states with his family living in Lake George, New York, Morristown, New Jersey and Cleveland, Ohio.
In 1891 and 1895 Fery organized and lead two hunting expeditions throughout the western United States for European sportsmen. During this period he also traveled west to paint American landscapes and hunting scenes; these extended trips out West put a strain on his family life so they moved to Jackson Lake, Wyoming.
He moved to Duluth, Minnesota by 1900, where he worked with Panorama artist Feodor von Luerzer to paint murals for the taproom of the Fitger Brewery; in 1914 these murals were installed in Duluth’s Pickwick Restaurant.
In 1900, while Fery was in Milwaukee marketing his artwork he was recognized by Louis Hill, of the Great Northern Railroad Company who hired him for the “See America First” campaign. He worked for the Great Northern Railroad in St. Paul, Minnesota from 1903-1910 completing 347 major paintings - approximately 14 paintings a month. Fery would make quick sketches on summer trips out west as he traveled through Glacier National Park. He would then develop them into landscapes during the winter months, helping to "sell" the West to prospective travelers. In 1914, he was sent to Yellowstone National Park to paint scenes for the Northern Pacific Railway. After returning to Glacier National Park to complete paintings for the opening of the Many Glacier Hotel he found himself unemployed due to strained relations with Hill.
From 1918 - 1923 Fery lived in Salt Lake City, Utah where he painted many landscapes in the Zion Canyon region. He returned to Milwaukee from 1923-1929. In 1929, the Fery’s moved to Orcas Island in the State of Washington to work for the Great Northern Railroad again. The same year a fire destroyed all the completed paintings for the railroad and sketches covering 40 years of his work.
Many of Fery’s paintings were huge, often measuring 10 x 12 feet or larger. He would occasionally include an animal or two in his landscapes. A few, notably those of the Seattle waterfront and of Indian villages, could be considered historical or documentary paintings. His brush stroke was confident, yet sensitive, to the changing moods of the mountain scenes. His early paintings were in the somber hues of the German style, but by the 1920s his works were almost impressionistic and brightly hued.