Reiss was born in Germany and came to the United States in 1913. Fascinated with American Indians, in 1919 he made his way west to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation where he produced 35 portraits of Blackfeet Indians. In 1927 he returned to Montana to paint in Glacier Park for Louis Hill and the Great Northern Railway and would do so for the next ten summers. Reiss again returned to Glacier to establish a successful art school which ran during the summers of 1934-1937. Reiss' art became the face of the Great Northern's See America First promotional literature.