Nikiforos Lytras was born on the island of Tinos in 1832.
At the age of eighteen he moved to Athens to study at The School of Fine Arts under Margaritis,Triantafyllou and Thiersch. He completed his studies in 1856. Later, in 1860, on a scholarship from the Greek government he went to Munich to study at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts. There, he was taught by Karl von Piloty. During that period Lytras focused on historically themed paintings. His subjects were inspired by Greek Mythology and history.
In the summer of 1865 before returning to Greece he met Nikolaos Gysis in Munich and together they studied the masterpieces of German Museum collections.
On his return to Athens, Lytras became a professor at The Athens School of Fine Arts in the department of painting, a position he held for the remainder of his life.
Together with Nikolaos Gysis, he travelled to Asia Minor in 1873 and Paris in 1876. In 1879 he travelled to Egypt.
After returning to Greece, Lytras worked on portraiture, still life and everyday scenes. Lytra’s paintings on everyday life correspond with the ideology against the ruling class at the time. His trips to Asia Minor and Egypt informed his paintings in depicting children of colour and other elements of Anatolia.
During the final period of his life he painted many scenes that explored aging, loneliness, and fear of death.
From the time when he started teaching at the Athens School of Fine Arts to the time of his death in 1904, Lytras was very active in the artistic scene of Athens and is considered as the most prominent artist of that scene.
During his life he took part in numerous solo and group exhibitions, there have been countless books written about his work which can be found in most prominent museums of Greece and in many private collections.