|Born Nils Ahgren in Sweden in 1893, Nils Gren left his native country
in 1912, making what was intended to be a short stop in
Australia. However, the advent of World War I made it necessary
for Gren to remain in Sydney, and it was not until 1919 that he
immigrated to the United States.|
Gren first lived in New York City where he worked for several years as
a designer for a pattern manufacturer, but by 1925 Gren was living in
southern California. He resided in Los Angeles, studying with
Stanton Macdonald Wright and exhibiting with the Painters and Sculptors
of Los Angeles in 1926, and with the Modern Art Society of Los Angeles
that same year.
In the late 1920s Nils Gren moved to San Francisco, exhibiting with the
San Francisco Art Association in 1928 and 1929. Around 1930 Gren
destroyed all his earlier work, but went on to produce paintings with
what became his signature style – nocturnes and fantastic images of
people, places and objects.
Gren’s paintings were widely exhibited, including at the Paul Elder
Gallery, where he had a solo show in 1932. His work also was
exhibited in many museum shows, including the Oakland Art Gallery in
1932 and 1934, the San Francisco Museum of Art Inaugural Exhibition in
1935, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, and also at the Golden Gate
International Exposition in 1939 and California State Fairs throughout
Also during the 1930s, Nils Gren produced lithographs for the Works
Progress Administration, and worked with other artists on murals for
San Francisco’s Mission High School. He also produced a colorful mural
for his friend, restaurateur and former bootlegger Isadore Gomez, for
Gomez’ 848 Pacific Street restaurant.
A 1940 exhibition of Gren’s paintings at the San Francisco Museum of Art prompted these comments from San Francisco Chronicle
critic Alfred Frankenstein: “Mr. Gren’s best pictures are fantastic,
moody, imaginative landscapes in oil, with the looping rhythms
characteristic of his approach.” Later that same year Nils Gren passed
away in San Francisco. His work is included in many public collections,
including the Smithsonian Institution and the Oakland Museum.