Percy Gray

Armand Cabrera

Percy Gray was born in San Francisco, California. At 16 years of age, Gray enrolled in the California School of Design where he studied with Virgil Williams, Raymond D. Yelland and Emil Carlsen.

After graduation, Gray took a job as a quick sketch artist with the Morning Call, a major San Francisco newspaper. Gray honed his drawing skills as newspaper artists were expected to sketch on site for the paper. Gray came to the attention of the illustrious William R. Hearst who hired the young artist to work for his newspaper, the New York Journal.

Gray spent 11 years with the New York Journal. While in New York, he studied with William Merritt Chase. Gray returned to his native California in 1906 to cover the devastation of the 1906 earthquake for the Hearst newspapers. Gray decided to remain in San Francisco working for the Examiner. Gray began to turn more of his attention to personal artwork and found a market for his watercolors depicting Northern California scenes. The public and critics alike responded to his realistic, yet romantic views of nature. Gray worked mostly as a Tonalist, preferring the muted tones of Barbizon Painting rather than the pure color of Impressionism. However, Gray occasionally worked in a brighter palette.

In 1923, Gray married Leone Plumley Phelps, a 35 year old divorcee and moved to Monterey. The Gray’s bought the historic Casa Bonifacio Adobe. For the next 16 years, Gray painted the thriving Monterey area. During this time, he added etching to his repertoire and produced some fine works in that medium.

In 1939, The Grays sold their home and moved to Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. In 1951, after his wife’s death, Gray moved to San Francisco to live at the Bohemian Club. He also rented a studio on Sutter Street near Union Square. Percy Gray died at his easel from a heart attack in October of 1952.


The Legacy of Percy Gray1998 The Carmel Art Association

Plein Air Painters of California
The North
Ruth Westphal
1986 Westphal Publishing

“It has been said of Percy Gray; even though he is a realist he endows his pictures with the eerie charm of romance. He knows how to bring out the misty quality of the air, the mystery of clouds sailing by the soul of trees and the fragrance of flowers.” ~Nadia Lavrova 1926

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