Painting the Town: The Work of Rey Giese

Arbuckle Gallery at the Pacific Hotel: September 4, 2016 – July 30, 2017

 Rey Giese paint toolbox

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Born in 1919, Reynold Giese dropped out of San Jose High School in 1935 to pursue work in the sign painting business. The school principal supported Giese’s decision because of his demonstrated artistic talents. After working as an apprentice for several years and slowly building a client list, Giese was able to open his own shop. Among his clients were businesses, public entities and political campaigns. Each of Giese’s pieces was hand-crafted, from his original sketch to the brush strokes of the final product. Giese continued this practice into the 21st century.

Rey Giese apprentice sign

Giese was hired to paint signs for a variety of community events, from the County Fair to football games. While the circus was in town, he was even hired to paint a live elephant. At one point, Giese’s work lined both sides of First Street in downtown San Jose. Due to burgeoning customer traffic resulting from Giese’s signs, one client claimed he needed to continually raise his prices — more work for Giese, as a new sign was commissioned for each price increase.

Giese often expressed his humor in his art and created pieces for family and friends. He continued to paint until his death in 2013. The accumulated signs in Giese’s San Jose garage studio have become an archive of the city’s businesses and activities.

Thank you! History San Jose sincerely thanks the generous sponsors who made this exhibit possible:

Robert J. Bettencourt

Jim Salata, Garden City Construction

Joseph George Fine Wines