Unlike most of the artists affiliated with the Tryon, North Carolina, art colony who gravitated there from other places, Fred William Reich had lived there since he was a child. He demonstrated an early interest in art and was recognized in his community as an artist by the time he became a teenager. His ancestry was German, and in 1916 a student at Converse College (now University), located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, described his dress in her diary as: “a typical foreign artist, something like an Italian musician.”

Reich was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but sometime before 1905, the family moved to Tryon. They lived on the outskirts of town and his 1917 draft registration noted that he was a farmer. He served in the military from July 1918 to April 1919 and was honorably discharged with the rank of private. The following year he went to Ohio to enroll in the Art Academy of Cincinnati, perhaps at the suggestion of Will Henry Stevens, who had started visiting western North Carolina in the mid-teens. Reich married fellow artist Jean Heyl, a ceramicist, and they  traveled abroad in 1926 and sailed home from France. 

The Reichs settled in Cincinnati but made frequent trips to Tryon. He was a commercial artist who also painted portraits, while his wife was employed by the Cincinnati Art Museum from 1946 until 1957, at which point they returned to Tryon where they settled permanently. They were active with Tryon Crafts, Inc., an artists’ cooperative, as well as charter members of Tryon Painters and Sculptors, which according to its website, “has worked to fulfill its mission to provide opportunities for an appreciation of fine arts through member and guest exhibits, education, and partnerships with other area arts organizations.” Jean continued to make ceramic figurines and offered classes in her studio, while Fred continued his commercial work and painted mostly watercolors of the mountain scenery he had known since childhood.