Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Gray, John Miller

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1398856Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement, Volume 2 — Gray, John Miller1901James Lewis Caw

GRAY, JOHN MILLER (1850–1894), art critic and curator of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, was born in Edinburgh in 1850,his mother dying at his birth. His father, John Gray, who had retired from business, lost nearly all he had saved by the failure of the Western Bank, and Gray had to leave school somewhat early and enter the Commercial Bank. Devoting his leisure to the study of books and pictures and prints, he gradually made a beginning as a critic, writing principally for the 'Edinburgh Courant.' His monograph on George Manson [q. v.] in 1880, along with other art criticism, attracted attention, and when the Scottish National Portrait Gallery was founded in 1884 by John Ritchie Findlay [q. v. Suppl.], Gray was appointed curator. Throwing himself ardently into the work, for he was devoted to history as well as to art, he did much for the welfare of the gallery. Meanwhile he also extended his literary connection, writing regularly for the 'Academy,' and occasionally for the 'Art Journal' and the 'Magazine of Art,' while after the collapse of the 'Courant' he became art critic on the 'Scottish Leader.' He also contributed much to the 'Encyclopædia Britannica,' 'Chambers's Encyclopædia,' and the 'Dictionary of National Biography.' His interests were very varied; book plates, bookbindings, stained glass, &c., claimed his attention, and he was the originator of the Heraldic Exhibition held in Edinburgh in 1891. He died unmarried in Edinburgh on 22 March 1894. He left practically all he possessed to form a fund for the purchase of portraits for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. An oil portrait by P. W. Adam and a pencil drawing and a medallion by C. S. Matthew hang in the curator's room in the Scottish Portrait Gallery, and in the 'Memoirs' (published 1895) a caricature by G. R. Halkett and a photograph are reproduced.

In addition to magazine and other articles, and the work already mentioned, he published 'David Scott, R.S.A.' (1882); 'P. W. Nicholson' (with Mr. Baildon) (1887), and 'James and William Tassie ' (1894). He also edited 'Clerk of Penicuik's Memoirs' (1892) for the Scottish History Society.

[Scotsman, 23 and 28 March 1894; Academy, vol. xlv.; Athenæum (Sir George Scharf), 16 June 1894; J. M. Gray, Memoirs and Remains, Edinburgh, 1895.]

J. L. C.