George "Jack" Oscar Greiner was born February 22, 1900 in New York City . His father, Magnus Greiner, was born 1858 in Germany. His mother, Elvina Gleichmann, was born in NYC of German Jewish ancestry. His parents married in 1893. They had two children. His older sister Viola Louise Greiner was born April 2, 1894. They lived at 1619 Madison Avenue, which is on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in the neighborhood of Yorkville, which was a popular place to live for immigrants of German ancestry. Frank R. Paul, Paul Stahr, Frank Kramer, and Joseph Szokoli all lived in Yorkville during their early years, but eventually moved away.
His father, Magnus Greiner, came to America in 1874. He was a commercial artist, whose watercolors illustrated calendars and magazines.
In 1908 the family moved to 116 Chauncey Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. His father worked at home by using a spare room in their apartment as his art studio. His older sister also worked at home as a graphic design artist.
On May 17, 1918 he enlisted in the Marine Corps during The Great War.
After the war he returned to New York City to study at the Art Students League and follow his father's career as a magazine illustrator. He later listed his most influential teachers as Francis Luis Mora (1874-1940), George Luks (1867-1933), and Henry R. Rittenberg (1879-1969).
In 1922 he painted covers for the pulp magazine Breezy Stories. He continued to work in the pulp magazine industry and his work eventually appeared on the covers of Peppy Tales, La Paree, Lively Stories, Gay Parisienne, Paris Nights, Telling Tales, Paris Gayety, French Scandals, Happy Stories, Gayety, Real Smart, Frolics, and Parisienne.
On March 3, 1923 his father died at the age of sixty-four. Oddly enough, on that same day his maternal grandmother, Fredericka Gleichmann, also died in her apartment two blocks away at 41 McDougal Street in Brooklyn.
On November 26, 1924 he married Katherine Wolpert. She was born in NYC in 1902 and worked as a supervisor at the New York Telephone Company. The newlyweds moved to 99 Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn, which faces Prospect Park. He rented a second apartment in Brooklyn at 1553 Ocean Avenue to use as an art studio.
His pastel portraits of glamorous Hollywood stars appeared on fan magazines, such as Motion Picture Magazine, True Story, and Screen Scandals. These mainstream magazines paid much better than pulp magazines. He also drew portraits of actors for Hollywood movie posters.
His portrait of Shirley Temple was so admired that he became her exclusive portrait artist during her motion picture career.
On January 29, 1941 his mother died at the age of seventy-seven in her apartment in Brooklyn.
During the 1930s several of the top pastel portrait artists, whose work appeared on the covers of Hollywood fan magazines, left NYC and moved to the West Coast, such as Rolf Armstrong, Julius Erbit, and Zoe Mozert. Greiner decided to follow their lead and seek his own fortune in tinsel town, so in 1941 he moved to North Hollywood, California, where he found work drawing pastel portraits of major stars for the Hollywood film studios. He made ninety-eight portraits of Alice Fay during her eight years with 20th Century.
He also working in advertising. Several of his illustrations for products appeared on nationally distributed posters and billboards.
He never retired. He painted commissioned portraits and religious scenes, which were included in community art shows. Local newspapers record his ongoing activity as a artist. According to Agnes Dow of The News of Van Nuys, "Prolific and versatile, this man has such powerful drive that now, in his senior years, there is no let up in his creativity. His dog portraits are known and loved from coast to coast. Numerous versions of his painting of The Last Supper are upon the walls of many thousands of homes throughout the world, since the work was purchased by a company turning out paint-by-number sets and still is in great demand."
George "Jack" Oscar Greiner died at home in North Hollywood, CA, at the age of seventy-six on November 25, 1976.
© David Saunders 2012