Gregory, Edward John (DNB12)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

GREGORY, EDWARD JOHN (1850–1909), painter, born in Southampton on 19 April 1850, was grandson of John Gregory, engineer-in-chief of the auxiliary engines in Sir John Franklin's last Arctic expedition, and was eldest child (in a family of three sons and five daughters) of Edward Gregory, a ship's engineer, by his wife Mary Ann Taylor. On leaving Dr. Cruikshank's private school at fifteen he entered the drawing-office, in his native town, of the Peninsular and Oriental steamship company, in whose employ his father sailed ; but though always keenly interested in all kinds of mechanism, he had set his mind upon being a painter. Making the acquaintance at Southampton of Hubert Herkomer (now Sir Hubert von Herkomer, R.A.), whose family had settled there, he started a life-class with him. In 1869 Gregory went to London, and with Herkomer joined the South Kensington Art School. Subsequently he studied for a short time at the Royal Academy. He was soon employed in the decorations of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and in 1871, with his friends Herkomer and Robert Walker Macbeth [q. v. Suppl. II], began working for the 'Graphic,' which had just been started by William Luson Thomas [q. v. Suppl. I]. Gregory at first contributed sketches from the theatres, but soon freely transcribed sketches sent home from the French army at the front by Mr. Sydney P. Hall. Gregory's illustrations, which were sometimes signed by both himself and Hall, discovered the variety and ingenuity of his draughtsmanship. He ceased to work regularly for the 'Graphic' about 1875.

Gregory was not a frequent exhibitor at Burlington House. His mark as a painter was first made by an oil-painting, 'Dawn' (now in the possession of Mr. John Sargent, R.A.), originally shown at Deschamps' gallery in 1879. Much of his best work appeared at the exhibitions of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, of which he was elected associate in 1871 and member in 1876. He succeeded Sir James Linton as president in 1898. From 1875 to 1882 his contributions to the Academy were mainly portraits, including that of Duncan McLaren, M.P., a replica of which is in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. As early as 1883 he was elected with Macbeth to the associateship, and he became academician in 1898, after the completion and exhibition of his 'Boulter's Lock : Sunday Afternoon,' a work which hardly justified the years of elaboration spent upon it.

Gregory's art was honoured abroad, both his oils and his water-colours being awarded gold medals at the international exhibitions of Paris (1889 and 1900) and Brussels (1898), and at the Munich Jahresausstellung (1891). Probably his water-colours and some of his drawings on wood will have a more enduring fame than his oils. In all mediums he showed cleverness and resource as a draughtsman, and a technical skill that was especially remarkable in his water-colours. His art suffered in the end through a fastidious preoccupation with the technical problems of his craft. For many years his paintings, which were not numerous, were acquired as soon as they were finished by Charles J. Galloway of Manchester, at whose death they were dispersed with the rest of his collection at Christie's on 24 June 1905, Gregory's water-colours bringing large prices.

Besides 'Dawn' and 'Boulter's Lock,' Gregory's principal oil pictures were 'Piccadilly : Drawing-room Day' (R.A. 1883) ; 'Last Touches,' 'St. George' (which was etched by Paul Rajon), 'Miss Galloway,' 'The Intruders' (R.A. 1884); 'Marooning' (now in the Tate Gallery) (R.A. 1887); 'Fanny Bunter' and 'Apres,' his diploma picture (R.A. 1890); and 'Spoils of Opportunity' (R.A. 1893). His chief contributions to the Royal Institute were : 'The Inception of a Song,' 'The Honeymoon,' 'Sir Galahad,' 'The Sanctum Invaded,' 'A Look at the Model,' 'Souvenir of the Institute,' 'The Fugitive,' 'Master Newall.'

Gregory, despite a bad stammer, showed unusual aptitude for affairs as president of the Institute and was a conscientious and popular visitor at the schools of the Academy, in the counsels of which he exerted much weight. He died at his residence, Brompton House, Great Mario w, on 22 June 1909, and was buried in Great Marlow churchyard. He married in 1876 Mary, daughter of Joseph Joyner, who survived him without issue.

'A Look at the Model' (the property of Mr. H. W. Henderson) and the 'Souvenir of the Institute' are self-portraits. Two other portraits of himself, painted by him in 1875 and 1883, are in the possession of Mrs. Alfred Henry, London. A portrait by John Parker, R.W.S., belongs to his widow. Early in his career Gregory was invited to contribute his portrait to the Uffizi Gallery at Florence, but never finished one to his satisfaction.

[Private information ; Graves's Royal Academy Exhibitors, 1905-6.]

D. S. M.