Leo Meissner was born in Hamtramck, Michigan in the heart of the newly industrialized areas surrounding Detroit. He studied at the Detroit Fine Arts Academy with John P. Wicker. After 1910 he enlisted to serve during World War I and on the troop ship to France, he fell in love with the swells of the Atlantic Ocean. He felt that the ocean would make a fine subject for painting and for the remainder of his life, he pursued the sea as a major theme in his painting and printmaking. Following the war, he continued his studies at the Detroit Fine Arts Academy where he won a scholarship to the Art Students League in New York.
At the Art Students League, Meissner studied painting with Robert Henri and George Luks. He secured a job as an assistant art director on the magazine, “Charm”. In 1923 he took a vacation to Monhegan Island, a location that would provide inspiration for his work for the next fifty years. He retired from magazine work in 1950 to devote his artistic energies to his own work, particularly wood engraving during the 1950s and 1960s. He also made some brilliant Manhattan subjects during the 1920s and 1930s. In his career, which spans over 50 years, Meissner produced more than 150 relief prints.
Meissner instituted the Loe J. Meissner prize in printmaking at the National Academy of Design for excellence in printmaking. Meissner was a member of the National Academy of Design, the Audubon Artists, the Society of American Graphic Artists, the Print Club of Albany, Boston Print Makers, Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters; the Prairie Print Makers, Old Bergen Art Guild, Salmagundi Club, the Philadelphia Print Club, Boston Society of Independent Artists and many others.