Sir Henry Raeburn (British, Stockbridge, Scotland 1756–1823 Edinburgh, Scotland)
Oil on canvas
49 3/8 x 40 in. (125.4 x 101.6 cm)
Bequest of Lillian S. Timken, 1959
Not on view
John Gray, the eldest son of William Gray of Newholm, was a Scottish writer to the signet (corresponding to an English solicitor) and, from 1786 until his death in 1811, town clerk of Edinburgh. He married Marion Brown, daughter of the Reverend James Brown, a minister of Edinburgh.
The generally well preserved portrait was cleaned at the Metropolitan Museum in 1992 by Hubert von Sonnenburg. At that time, old black overpaint was removed from the sitter’s stockings, returning their color to the original white. The view through the window at the left had been retouched to read as a landscape with trees and an ominous sky rather than a volcano with a plume and a cloud of black smoke. These changes also were reversed (see Additional Images, fig. 1). Little is known about John Gray, and the significance of the volcano has yet to be discovered. A fine mezzotint engraving by George Dawe after Raeburn’s portrait was published by D. Hatton, Edinburgh, in 1806 and dedicated to the Royal Company of Golfers.
David Mackie (1988) knew of, but had not seen, another portrait of Gray, and having looked at this one, identified it as a copy. However, assuming the provenance to be correct, the present work was accepted as a Raeburn while on long-term loan from Major-General Cunningham to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, and was also lent, as the work of Raeburn, by Frank Bulkeley Smith to the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts. Technically, it seems to be quite typical for the artist, who in any case painted many replicas. The sitter’s apparent age and costume suggest a date between 1795 and 1805, the year before Dawe’s print was published.
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
Alexander Cunningham, Edinburgh (in 1876); his nephew, Major-General Sir Alexander Cunningham (in 1901); R. Hall McCormick, Chicago; Frank Bulkeley Smith, Worcester, Mass. (by 1913–20; his estate sale, American Art Association, New York, April 23, 1920, no. 110, for $2,100 to W. W. Seaman); Lillian S. (Mrs. William R.) Timken, New York (until d. 1959)
Edinburgh. Royal Academy, National Galleries. "Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A.," October–November 1876, no. 113 (as John Gray, Esq. of Newholm, Town-Clerk of Edinburgh, lent by Alexander Cunningham).
Little Rock. Arkansas Arts Center. "Five Centuries of European Painting," May 16–October 26, 1963, unnumbered cat. (p. 34).
William Raeburn Andrew. Life of Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A. 2nd ed. London, 1894, p. 124, no. 134, lists it among paintings exhibited in 1876.
Walter Armstrong. Sir Henry Raeburn. London, 1901, p. 103, ill. p. 52, as in the collection of Major-General Cunningham and lent for many years to the National Gallery of Scotland.
Edward Pinnington. Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A. London, 1904, p. 232.
R. S. Clouston. Sir Henry Raeburn. London, 1908, ill. p. 29, as at the Scottish National Gallery.
James Greig. Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A.: His Life and Works. London, 1911, p. 47, ill. p. 20.
David Mackie. Letter to Katharine Baetjer. February 12, 1988, believes the portrait to be a later copy, observing that "there is supposed to be another version of it by Raeburn which I have not seen".
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, p. 168, no. 81, ill. (color).