A pioneer Abstract Expressionist of the New York School, McNeil [1908-1995] had over forty solo exhibitions during his lifetime. Between the ’40s and until the mid ’60s his art was decidedly abstract but it was always joined to metaphor. George McNeil had a career that spanned the entire postwar American art era. McNeil attended Pratt Institute and the Art Students’ League, where he studied with Jan Matulka.
From 1932-36, he studied with Hans Hofmann, becoming Hofmann's studio classroom monitor. In 1936 he worked for the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project and became one of the founding members of the American Abstract Artists group. McNeil was one of the few abstract artists whose work was selected for the New York World's Fair in 1939. During World War II, he served in the US Navy. In the late 1940s McNeil taught at the University of Wyoming and then taught art and art history at Pratt Institute until 1980, influencing generations of young artists. From the ’70s onward, McNeil explored ways to expand beyond the cannons of the Abstract Expressionism. In this period his work became more figurative, drawing inspiration from the dynamic life of the city, its dancers, discos and sports. Throughout his career as a painter McNeil commanded a mastery technique, capable of creating paintings of rich texture depth and color. In 1989, McNeil was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. George McNeil's work is represented in numerous museum collections around the country, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of America Art, San Francisco Museum of Art, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and Walker Art Center Minneapolis.