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 Grif Teller  (1899 - 1993)

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Lived/Active: New Jersey      Known for: illustration-calendar, landscape

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Grif Teller
An example of work by Grif Teller
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following biography is based on information provided by F Gregory Overmeyer:

Grif Teller was most widely known for painting a long series of calendar art for the Pennsylvania Railroad, once the largest and most influential transportation company in the United States. For more than 30 years, Grif captured on canvas the spirit and soul of the Pennsylvania, working each year to produce a single oil painting to represent the giant carrier that employed hundreds of thousands of people and whose rails stretched into 14 states.

The paintings enjoyed wide exposure as the center pieces of the railroad's annual wall calendar -- more than 300,000 copies of each years edition were printed and distributed to customers, shippers and friends of the railroad throughout the world.

Grif painted the lion's share of the "Pennsy's" calendar art, and the series lasted from 1925 through 1958, and of those, he painted the scenes for 1928 through 1942 and 1947 through 1958.

These paintings also found their way onto desk and pocket calendars, playing cards, postcards and the covers of timetables, maps, and annual reports. Even after the wall calendar era closed in 1958, Grif continued to paint for the PRR, producing two scenes used in desk and wallet calendars for 1960 and 1961.

Born December 9, 1899, as the son of an insurance agent, Grif grew up around Newark, New Jersey, never far from the steam engine whistles of the nearby Erie and Lackawanna railroads. He graduated from the School of Fine and Industrial Arts in Newark and went to work in 1918 for the Osborne Company in the same city.

While working in the Osborne shipping department, he took night classes at the Art Students League of New York. Osborne became the key to his future as portraitist of the PRR, for it was a large and pioneering art calendar and advertising company that employed hundreds of salesman across the nation and in Canada and Australia. Osborne was sold to the American Colortype Company in 1954, and Grif remained for about a year thereafter before going to work for New York photographer, Leo Aarons, painting scenic backdrops.

He completed the last few PRR scenes as a freelancer, painting them in his home. After Aarons closed his New York studio, Grif worked for the Rae Publishing Company of Cedar Grove, New Jersey, and retired from commercial art in 1968.

Grif remained active painting barns and landscapes, and filling orders for railroad paintings commissioned by a new generation of rail buffs. He painted more than 60 rail scenes after being rediscovered by the railfan community in 1974. Most of them were large 24 x 36 inch canvases, about 2/3 the size the PRR commissioned.

Among Grif's hobbies were music, gardening, fishing and travel -- the latter of which he used to gather ideas for painting subjects. Some of his favorite destinations were Vermont and upstate New York. He exhibited his works at the National Academy of Design.

Grif married his late wife, Mabel, in 1928 and lived in Little Falls, New Jersey, occupying the same house from 1937-1992. Grif and Mabel raised two sons and a daughter there and had eleven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Grif Teller died at the home of his son, Robert, on April 8, 1993.

Periodical Listings:
"Grif Teller's Trains," by Walter Martin. Trains, 12/1979

"Trains of Yesterday" by Karl Zimmerman. Americana, March/April 1988

"At the Crossroads of Commerce," Dan Cupper, The Keystone, Winter 1989

"Grif Teller's Pennsylvania," Dan Cupper, Pennsylvania Heritage, Winter 1990

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.
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