Ernest Freed, painter, printmaker, administrator, and teacher, was born on a farm near Rockville, Indiana on July 20, 1908. He showed an early propensity toward art, but received no formal training until he enrolled at Indiana State Teacher's College in 1926. The following year, Freed transferred to the University of Illinois where he earned his B.S. in Education in 1931 and a B.F.A. in Art in 1933. He was awarded a scholarship in 1933 to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where he studied until 1934. Between 1935 and 1937, he pursued further studies at the University of Iowa and received his M.A. in fresco painting. 1936 was a pivotal year for Freed. He won a Tiffany Fellowship and had his first solo exhibition, which included work created during his fellowship.
Freed's early career in education included positions at the University of Iowa and Bradley University. He was Director of Art Education at Iowa where he met and studied printmaking with Mauricio Lasansky. At Bradley, as Head of the School of Art, he revamped the curriculum to include printmaking and established a National Print Exhibition. In 1954, he began a twenty-year career as Professor of Art at Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. As Head of Printmaking at Otis, he established another legacy, The National Print Invitational. He kept a demanding schedule of group exhibitions.
His solo exhibitions were held at the Landau Gallery in Los Angeles, Cranbrook Museum, Winnipeg Museum, and Illinois, Iowa, Southern California, and North Carolina University. Repositories of his work include the Smithsonian Institution, Baltimore Museum, Philadelphia Museum, Metropolitan Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Cranbrook Museum, Library of Congress, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, University of Southern California, and the Bibliothèque Nationale.
Ernest Freed died in Northridge, California in June of 1974.