The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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John Miller Gray, 1850-1894

Nationality: Scottish
Date of Birth: 1850
Place of Birth: Edinburgh
Date of Death: 1894.03.22
Place of Death: Edinburgh


> John Miller Gray was a writer and the curator of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.


Gray left full time education at an early age and entered employment under the Commercial Bank as his father had lost nearly all of he possessed due to the collapse of Western Bank. However, Gray always had an interest in the arts and spent the majority of his leisure time in the study of pictures and prints. Shortly after he began a career as a critic writing for the Edinburgh Courant and soon his work, including the acclaimed monograph on George Manson (1880) established his reputation. When John Richie Findlay founded the National Portrait Gallery in 1884, Gray was appointed as curator.

During his time at the Gallery, he continued to write regularly for the Academy and occasionally for the Art Journal and the Magazine of Art He was a extemsive contributor to the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" and the "Dictionary of National Biography" and had a wide range of interests including stained glass and bookbinding. Still unmarried on his death, the majority of his possessions was set up in a fund to purchase portraits for the Gallery.

John Miller Gray was in contact with James McNeill Whistler concerning the purchase of his work Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137). On 20 October 1884, he wrote to Algernon Graves, of H. Graves and Co., print dealers, remarking that there was a man interested in purchasing the portrait for four hundred guineas. However, Whistler wanted a thousand guineas for the picture but there was no one, including the National Portrait Gallery, who was willing to purchase it for that price.


Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 2004.