George Joseph Mess, the son of a photoengraver, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to Joseph and Anna Mess, on June 30, 1898. The family moved to Indianapolis in 1899. When George was seven years old he contracted pneumonia and typhoid fever. He passed the time with painting and drawing during his long convalescence. He began to receive scholarships when he was thirteen years old to study art at the John Herron Art Institute. Here he studied with Marie Todd and Otto Stark and William Forsyth. Stark later chose Mess to assist on the construction of murals for the City Hospital’s children’s ward, a project directed by Forsyth.
After graduation from high school in 1916, George found a job working at the Western Electric Company and attended Herron part-time continuing his studies with Forsyth. He enrolled at Butler University in the fall of 1918 and after a year there he and his brother, Gordan began the Circle Art Company where they developed a reputation in commercial art. After three years here he had earned enough money to attend Columbia University where he studied composition with Arthur Dow. He returned to Indianapolis in 1921 and resumed his commercial art business.
In 1925 he married Evelynne Bernloehr. Together they and Gordon opened the Circle Art Academy where they taught studio classes from 1927 until 1932. George and Evelynne enrolled at the Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts in northern France in June, 1929. Here they studied with landscape artist Andre Strauss and Gaston Balande and with figure painter, Jean Despujols. George also studied fresco painting with M. La Montague Saint Subert.
Mess was a member of the Indiana Artists’ Club and exhibited in the Hoosier Salon in 1926 and at the Carnegie Institute in 1930. In 1931 he received an invitation to study at the Tiffany Foundation in Oyster Bay, NY.
In 1937 George and Evelynne moved to Chicago where George worked as an artist on the staff of Esquire and Coronet until returning to Indianapolis in 1940. Mess occasionally taught at the Indianapolis Art League and at Herron. In 1949 he received a position to teach art part time at Indiana University on the Indianapolis Campus. He exhibited widely throughout his career at such places as the Chicago Art Institute, the Met, the Dayton Art Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts as well as international exhibits in Stockholm, Paris and Rome. George Mess died June 24, 1962.