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Percy Gray
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
San Francisco, CA
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
San Francisco, CA
Born Henry Percy Gray in San Francisco in 1869. Twelve of his British forbears were artists. Continuing family tradition, Percy Gray studied locally at the School of Design under Emil Carlsen. This was followed by work as a quick sketch artist for the SF Call. In 1895 he moved to NYC where he spent 11 years working as head of the art department for W.R. Hearst's New York Journal. While in NYC he studied at the ASL and with William M. Chase. Gray returned to SF in 1906 and joined the art department of the Examiner where he remained until almost 1920. By that time he was able to establish himself as a professional landscape painter. From 1906 he lived with his family in Alameda, then in Burlingame. From 1918-1923 he maintained a studio in SF's old Montgomery Block which also served as his living quarters. About 1910 he began signing his paintings in script instead of the block letters he had used since student days. In that year he began showing his watercolors at the Golden Gate Park Memorial Museum and the Del Monte Art Gallery in Monterey. In 1923 Gray married and settled in Monterey where the newlyweds purchased for their home and had rebuilt on another site the historic Casa Bonifacio. Built in 1835, it was also known as the Sherman Rose house, locale of the legendary romance of Senorita Maria Bonifacio and William T. Sherman, then a young army lieutenant, who was later to win fame as a Civil War general. A yellow rose bush which grew above the entrance arbor was planted by the young couple in 1850 to plight their troth. Brick by brick the Grays reassembled the adobe and transplanted the yellow rose which still grows. Working from his studio attached to the house, Gray attained total mastery of his watercolor technique during his Monterey years. In 1939 they sold the home and after two years in SF settled in San Anselmo in Marin County. After the death of his wife in 1951, the last year of Gray's life was spent as a resident of the Bohemian Club in his native city. He died of a heart attack in his studio on Oct. 10, 1952. Although he executed oils and a few etchings, he is best known for his atmospheric watercolors. His works most often depict the glades and valleys of Northern California, with slopes of poppies and lupine under oak and eucalyptus trees. In the teens and twenties he also portrayed many views of the rocky California coast. On occasion, he also depicted Southwestern desert scenes and some 20 portraits of Native Americans represent the bulk of his portraiture. (Hughes)