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Christopher Gray papers

Identifier: MS-0311

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Scope and Contents

This collection of papers relates largely to Christopher Gray's professional life as an art historian and to his extensive research for two important works on 19th century artists. Earlier items in the collection are evidence of Dr. Gray's preparation for his teaching and writing career. Research on many aspects of Art are represented in the papers including architecture, sculpture, and painting from the earliest periods to the modern. Aside from passports, there are no personal items included. Included in the collection are Gray's student notes from his graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley and at Harvard, lecture notes, resource material, and student papers from The Johns Hopkins University. A significant part of the collection is the research files, photographs, correspondence, and manuscript chapters for Gray's major works on Gauguin and Guillaumin. Student Notes form Series 1, and they are separated into two categories to distinguish between Gray's studies at the University of California, Berkeley and at Harvard University. Box 1.1 contains the Berkeley items from classes in Greek Art and Antiquities, Archaeology, Anthropology, and Philosophy of Art and others. The Harvard student material filed in Box 1.2 includes Oriental Art, Classical and Modern Architecture, Italian Art and American Painting. Final items in the series are filed in Box. 1.3 and include printed reports from the Radio Research Laboratory where Gray served during the second World War. Dr. Gray's report, "Notes on Cathode Ray Tube Photography" is included with the reports.

Series 2, Johns Hopkins University, gives a representative view of Dr. Gray's teaching career at the Hopkins. He came to the University in 1947 when the Department of Fine Arts was first established. The department was later known as History of Art. Gray acted as advisor to many undergraduates and some student files contained in Box 2.3 are not open to researchers. Some written work by David Milgrome, Roland Fleischer, and Jean Fay is included. Correspondence includes invitations to lecture from museum groups and art societies in Baltimore city. In Box 2.2 of this series are the files in which Gray assembled notes on a wide range of art subjects. Most likely, some student notes were combined with lecture notes and served as a resource for Dr. Gray's classes. Subjects taught by Gray at Hopkins included Great Artists, History of American Painting and Sculpture, Art of the Northern Countries, and Baroque Art in Italy and Spain.

Gray's particular interest in the impressionist and post- impressionist artists inspired the two major writings of his career. Series 3 and Series 4 of this collection contain the material used to support his research into the lives of Paul Gauguin and Armand Guillaumin. In order to catalog the artistic achievements of these men, Gray corresponded with galleries, museums, and individual collectors worldwide. He personally photographed many of the objects or arranged for photographs to be sent to him. He experienced particular difficulty in tracing objects in French collections. Gauguin Research forms Series 3 and includes correspondence, manuscript material, chapter revisions, galley, sheets and at least two hundred photographs studied for use in the published volume.

Guillaumin Research forms Series 4. Here are correspondence, biographical research, typescripts of chapters, and more photographs, all with reference to Gray's study of Armand Guillaumin.


  • Creation: 1937 - 1970


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Collection is open for use with the exception of students records in Box 2.3, which is closed. Access is restricted to education records of living students or former students in Box 2.3, as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, unless the student or former student grants access in writing. If it is not possible to verify date of death, the student will be assumed to be deceased 80 years after date of graduation, or date of last attendance.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical Note

Christopher Gray was born in Milton, Massachusetts, June 22, 1915. Gray studied physics at Harvard, obtaining a B.S. degree in 1937. He earned a master's degree in fine arts from the University of California at Berkeley in 1941. During World War II, Gray worked as an associate in the Radio Research Laboratory, Harvard University, where research centered on radar countermeasures. After his wartime service, Gray returned to academic classes at Harvard and received his Ph.D. in 1951 in the History of Art.

In June 1947, The Johns Hopkins University announced the creation of a fine arts department with Dr. Richard Howland at its head. At the same time, it was announced that Christopher Gray, then an assistant in the Department of Fine Arts at Harvard, would join the new department as instructor in fine arts. Dr. Gray was appointed associate professor in 1963 and remained at Hopkins until his retirement in 1969. At Hopkins, Dr. Gray taught classes in all styles and periods of Art including Renaissance, Baroque and Modern.

A part of Dr Gray's writings and research reflected the unique combination of scientist and art historian. In 1957, he published "A Re-evaluation of Luneberg's Hypothesis of Binocular Vision" in the Journal of the Optical Society of America. In this article, he offered an original hypothesis for understanding perspective in modern art. In 1959, he published "C├ęzanne's Use of Perspective" in the College Art Journal which applied his scientific study of binocular vision to the work of the painter. In 1955, Gray obtained a patent for a light-meter that could register light where no other meter would operate. Dr. Gray used this instrument to take 700 color slides for the art department at Hopkins.

Dr. Gray's ideas and efforts contributed to the foundation of the Department of Fine Arts at Hopkins. He served as acting chairman of the department, 1956-1958, and again in 1964-1965. He acted as advisor to undergraduates, and began an outreach to museums in the Baltimore area. He was interested in the acquisition of technical equipment (cameras, light-meters, projectors) for the department, and he argued for a commitment to a library budget for books to support the expanding department. In a departmental report for 1965, he described the status of the department as well as a vision for its growth.

As an art historian, Gray specialized in the work of the impressionists and post-impressionists. In 1963, he published Sculpture and Ceramics of Paul Gauguin, a chronology and catalog of Gauguin's work in France and the South Seas. A second major undertaking was begun on the life and works of Armand Guillaumin. Gray pursued the study of both artists rigorously, searching out museums, galleries, and private collectors worldwide. He amassed a large collection of photographs which were used to illustrate both volumes. Christopher Gray died in May 1970 before the publication of Armand Guillaumin. Dr. Gray's wife, Alice Darling Gray, assumed the work of overseeing the publication of the manuscript both in the United States and Italy.


12.64 Cubic Feet (9 record center cartons, 1 legal size document box, 1 legal half-size document box, 1 custom box (14 x 10.5 x 4 inches), 1 custom box (14 x 10.5 x 4 inches))

Language of Materials



The papers have been artificially arranged into four series: Student Notes, Johns Hopkins University, Gauguin Research and Guillaumin Research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were given to the University by Mrs. Alice Gray Lowe in 1990.

Separated Materials

In 1991, three trays of slides were sent to the History of Art Department, Mergenthaler 256, The Johns Hopkins University. The curator of slides at the time agreed that the material may be useful to students in the department.

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Joan Grattan in January 1991.

Christopher Gray's papers were received by the University in 1990, some years after his death. It is unlikely that they were received in exactly the same order as Dr. Gray maintained them. The papers had suffered from water damage and mold, and they were fumigated before processing. A large amount of the material was filed in manila envelopes, and all items were removed and re-filed into new folders. Wherever possible, the headings Dr. Gray assigned to his files have been retained.

Guide to the Christopher Gray papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA