George Joseph McNeil was born in New York in 1908. He studied at Pratt Institute, the Art Students League, the Hans Hoffman School of Fine Arts and Columbia University. McNeil has been an original presence in the New York City art community for decades.
In 1935 McNeil worked with James Brooks and Willem de Kooning on the Works Progress Administration Art Program and in 1936 he became a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group. In 1948 McNeil was appointed to head the evening school at Pratt and he invited colleagues, Gottlieb, Guston, Tworkov and Nakian, to teach there. He continued to teach at Pratt for more than 30 years. McNeil also taught at the University of Wyoming, the University of California at Berkeley and the New York Studio School. In 1950 he exhibited at the Vanguard Gallery of Charles Egan.
McNeil was the recipient of the Ford Foundation Purchase Award in 1963 and an award from the National Council on the Arts in 1967. He served as Artist-in-Residence at the Tamarind Institute in New Mexico in 1971, 1975- 1976 and 1984. While at Tamarind, he produced a number of lithographs. McNeil was a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.