Aaron Allan Edson was born in 1846 in Stanbridge Township, Canada East.His family moved to Stanbridge village when he was young, followed by a second relocation around 1861 to Montréal, Québec. Edson received commercial training and worked in several business houses including an art dealership and framing business.
By 1864 he was pursuing a new career path and seeking art training. After two eyars he returned to Montréal where he devoted his time to become a suscessful artist. The Art Association of Montreal used one of hois paintings as a prize for a contest.
He pursued further studies in Great Britain and continental Europe. In the 1880s, he spent five years in France, as a pupil of Léon-Germain Pelouse, the teacher who had the greatest influence upon him.
He was a founding member of the Society of Canadian Artists in 1867, an early member of the Ontario Society of Artists, founded in 1872, and a charter member in 1880 of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. At the first academy exhibition in March 1880, Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne, purchased works by Edson for her mother, Queen Victoria, and for herself.
He taught composition and landscape painting at the Art Association of Montréal, and provided illustrations for publications such as the Canadian Illustrated News and L’Opinion publique.
His subjects were often Canadian landscapes and it was evident he incorporated much of his training from Europe. He often spent time focusing on the portrayal of light. He worked in both oils and water-colours. He is considered one of the best landscape painters of all time.
He died in1888 in Glen Sutton, Québec and buried in Mount Royal Cemetery, Montréal.
In 1975, he was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. He was named Officer of the Order of Canada in 1986, and was one of the first recipients of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 1985. Sapp was honoured by the Saskatchewan Arts Board with the Lifetime Award of Excellence in the Arts in 1996. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Regina in 1998 and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Aboriginal Awards in 1999.