Jerry Opper was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 5, 1924. He moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1933. After graduating from Hollywood High School, he worked in movie studios and attended art classes at Chouinard Art Institute. In May 1942, Opper was drafted into the army and was then able to study at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center while his outfit was stationed in Colorado. Later he was sent to Guam and was discharged in December 1945.
Opper returned to Chouinard and his work in movie studios until 1947, when he moved to San Francisco. He enrolled as a full-time student at the California School of Fine Arts (now SFAI) and received his diploma in June of 1950. In 1948, Opper met his wife Gertrud Ruth Friedmann, daughter of artist Gustav Friedmann, whose works are also in the Lost Art Salon collection. It was love at first sight and a few weeks after their first encounter at the Black Cat in San Francisco's North Beach, they got married and enjoyed a passionate, life-long romance.
Shortly after he finished school, Opper worked briefly as a decorator’s assistant and then started his career as a commercial artist, working for several firms such as Fibreboard, Beatrix Food and Precision. Working full-time and dedicating himself to having a rich family life occupied most of Opper's time, but he continued to be creative. He was above all a family man with the pride of having raised two exceptional daughters, Erika and Jody. Year after year, Opper would painstakingly craft their Halloween costumes and holiday decorations, and was always there to help his daughters with art projects. For his personal creative pursuits, Opper enjoyed painting and printmaking. One of his preferred mediums was stone lithography, although at times he had to put this aside because of the hard labor associated with the weight of the stones.
Opper’s prints have been included in several major shows throughout the country: Oakland Art Gallery, Sacramento State Fair, San Francisco Museum of Art, International Color Lithography Exhibition at Cincinnati, Ohio, Pennell Print Show at the Library of Congress, Washington D.C., Brooklyn Museum Print Show, Los Angeles County Fair, Pomona, City of Paris Rotunda Gallery, San Francisco. Around 1950, Opper had a one-man show at the Lucien Labaudt Gallery in San Francisco and at the Montalvo Estate in Saratoga, California. At the California State Fair in Sacramento, Opper won the second prize for prints for his lithograph “Aquarium” and this print became part of the Fair’s permanent collection. The print Opper exhibited at the Brooklyn Print Show was chosen for the traveling exhibit, which was circulated to ten major cities by the American Federation of Arts. The two prints he showed at the San Francisco Museum were also chosen for circulation and were shown to various schools in California.
In 1951, an untitled abstract oil by Opper was included in the Seventeen Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Association (held at the San Francisco Museum of Art). And in 1952, the San Francisco Art Commission purchased one of Opper's abstract lithographs.