Willis was born in Bristol, England. His father, John A. Willis, and brother, Henry Willis, were also artists. He had established his reputation as an artist in England prior to immigrating to New York City in 1831 Willis adopted the United States as his home and remained here until his death in 1899. As New York City was the center of American landscape painters at the time, it is no wonder that Willis became known for his nostalgic genre/landscape scenes with children that often included cows and sheep. His subject matter included hunting and fishing scenes as well. He also went by the name of Edmund van Willis and curiously exhibited his paintings under multiple names, including A. Van Willis (from 1852-1862), A.V. Willis (1862), and Edmund VanWillis. Edmund Aylburton Willis was a member of the Brooklyn Art Society and exhibited at the National Academy of Design. Willis is listed in the Index of Artists: International-Biographical (Mallet, 1935), The New York Historical Society Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860 (Groce and Wallace, 1957), American Artists, Sculptors and Engravers (Young, 1968), Who Was Who in American Art: Artists Active Between 1898 and 1847 (Falk, 1985), Who Was Who in American Art (Falk, 1999) and Davenport’s Art Reference (Davenport, 2005).