Lionel James Cowen was born about 1847 in Jamaica, the eldest child of Frederick Augustus (1819-1876) and Emily Cowen (1821-). He was an artist whose first marriage was in St Giles, Middlesex, England, in 1885. He was a member of the Royal Society of British Artists. Lionel moved to Sydney where he had a studio in Ash Street off 346 George Street. He travelled to Tasmania and painted scenes in Hobart and Launceston which he exhibited in the Tasmanian International Exhibition in 1891-92. These were ' Falls on the Cascade Creek, Hobart', 'Newtown Creek', 'Cataract Gorge' and 'Interrupted Reading'. They were all for sale at the Exhibition.
On 9 May 1891, when Lionel was 43, he married 22 year old Mrs Alicia Strang, formerly Mulvaney, born on 18 Dec 1868, daughter of James Mulvaney and Elizabeth Carroll. They were married at the residence of Rev. JW Simmons, Glebe, Hobart, according to the rights of the Congregational Church, in the presence of Alicia's sister Dorah Mulvaney and Robert Blay. Alicia had married Archibald Strang, storekeeper, in 1884 and divorced in 1885. Lionel and Alicia's daughter Emily was born in Hobart in 1892.
Three years later, on 7 Jul 1895, Lionel died on board the Oruba in the Indian Ocean, aged 48. There is a memorial to him in the Balls Pond Road Jewish Cemetery, London. His friend John Peacock inserted a death notice in The Argus newspaper, which stated that he left a widow and two young children. His last address was Loch Street, Auburn, Victoria. His brother Frederick Cowen was the musical director of the Centennial Exhibition, Melbourne.