Born in Brooklyn in 1904, Gertrude Greene (née Glass) studied sculpture at the Leonardo da Vinci School in New York. In 1926 she married Balcomb Greene and the couple headed to Vienna so that Balcomb could study psychology. In 1928, upon their return to the United States, Balcomb and Gertrude Greene relocated to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where, for the first time, Gertrude enjoyed a studio of her own. The Greenes's frequent trips to New York City during these years fed Gertrude's interest in newly-emerging art movements.
In 1931 the Greenes moved to Paris. Here Gertrude Greene was exposed to the progressive art of the Cubists, Surrealists and Constructivists. She was particularly interested in the simple geometry of Constructivism, an art movement that merged politics and art, theorizing that pure, abstract art had the power to reorder and elevate society. Inspired by the Russian Constructivists Antoine Pevsner, Naum Gabo and Vladimir Tatlin, Greene began creating her own non-representational Constructivist drawings.
Upon the Greenes' return to New York City, Gertrude became involved in the Unemployed Artists Group, which lobbied for federal support for out-of-work artists and paved the way for the formation of the Works Progress Administration in 1935. In 1937 Greene helped to organize the American Abstract Artists and became its first paid employee, tending the reception desk during their early exhibitions.
By 1935 Gertrude Greene had begun creating wood constructions, making a name for herself in the history of art as one of the first abstract artists to work in sculpture. Her early constructions reflected her dual interests in biomorphism and geometric abstraction by implementing elements of both styles in her compositions. After 1940, however, Greene's work was much more akin to Constructivism, with its cleaner forms and simpler geometry. In 1942 the Greenes were splitting their time between New York City and Pittsburgh. Working out of two studios meant that Gertrude didn't always have access to all of her tools, which accelerated the increasing simplicity of her constructions. Because of these trips between residences, Greene began making studies for her constructions in the form of small paper collages, a portable medium that allowed her to quickly and easily work out the ideas that she would later transform into wood.
By the early 1950s Gertrude Greene began to work almost exclusively with paint. Her style at this time was moving away from Constructivism and becoming increasingly expressionistic. In 1951 and 1952 Greene had her first two solo exhibitions at Grace Borgenicht Gallery in New York City and in 1955, she had another solo exhibition at Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York. Gertrude Greene died in 1956.