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Percy Gray

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Cathedral Rocks, Yosemite

Percy Gray studied at the California School of Design during the 1880s before launching into a career as a newspaper artist, first in San Francisco and then in New York.  While in the East, he studied at the Art Students League and with William Merritt Chase.  Gray returned to San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and started exhibiting paintings for sale.  His newspaper career had given him much practice in the fluid, spontaneous medium of watercolor, and it was as a watercolor painter that he established his reputation in San Francisco.  He became known as one of the foremost interpreters of eucalyptus and oak trees depicted in foggy Coast Range landscapes.  Gray also ventured into the mountains, visiting Yosemite Valley in 1911 and again in 1922. Once the Mecca of nineteenth-century California painters, Yosemite had become outdated as a subject for serious art as early as the 1880s. In order to give them a more up-to-date look, Gray applied the tonalist aesthetic to his renditions of the famous Yosemite landmarks, limiting his color scheme to related gray/blue/green tints. In our painting, the cloudy sky reinforces this harmonious progression of values. The result is a soothing image, quite different from the celebration of American grandeur that earlier artists had created out of Yosemite subjects.

 

 


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