The son of a schoolmaster, Noel Harry Leaver was born in Austwick, Yorkshire on 23 March 1889. He was educated at St James' Day Schools, Burnley and first studied art at Burnley School of Art.
Leaver then moved to London to study at the Royal College of Art, and there, he received diplomas in design (1909) and art (1910), and a travel scholarship which took him to Italy (1911). As a result of his further study at the Royal Institute of British Architects, he received the Owen Jones travel scholarship which enabled him to return to Italy, and also visit North Africa (1912).
He taught at Halifax Technical College (1912-15) and, at the end of the First World War, took up watercolour painting. Establishing his reputation with paintings of the English Cathedrals, he painted extensively in North Africa (Algeria and Morocco) in the following two decades. He also produced watercolours of still life. Though he exhibited mainly in Burnley, he also showed work in London and Bristol, and in the United States.
He is best known for the blue skies and deep shadows of his evocative Italian and North African landscapes.