Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mary Chilton Gray (1888-1969)

Marie L. Chilton Gray, better known as Mary Chilton Gray, was born on November 22, 1888, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her mother, Georgette P. Gray, was a social worker and superintendent at the Indianapolis Home for Friendless Women. She also worked at the Indianapolis Orphans Asylum and the Indiana Industrial Home for the Blind. Mary Chilton Gray studied off and on at the Herron School of Art between 1902 and 1911. Only thirteen years old in the spring of 1902, she was one of the first students at Herron. Among the other artists of note in that inaugural class were William Merle Allison, Fanny L. Burgheim, Harry Carlisle, Helen Eaton Jacoby, and Tempe Tice. The instructors were William Forsyth and Otto Stark.

Mary Chilton Gray was a painter active in Indianapolis as late as 1930. She exhibited in the Hoosier Salon in 1931 and 1933 and lived in Taos, New Mexico, for ten years as part of an artist's colony that at various times included Georgia O'Keeffe, Ansel Adams, Nicolai Fechin, and D.H. Lawrence. The height of her career came in Denver where she worked for the Colorado Museum of Natural History and the Denver Art Museum as a muralist and illustrator. Her books include three from the Denver Museum of Natural History Popular Series: Fossils: A Story of Rocks and Their Record of Prehistoric Life by Harvey C. Markman (No. 3), Ancient Man in North America by H(annah) M(arie) Wormington (No. 4), and Prehistoric Indians of the Southwest, also by H.M. Wormington (No. 7). You can see photographs of Mary Chilton Gray on the website of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, here. The photographs show the artist alone, with staff members, and--of special interest--preparing dinosaur murals at the museum. Mary Chilton Gray was married to Robert J. Mendenhall, a commercial artist. She died in Denver on November 9, 1969, at age eighty.

"The Shadow Taos Pueblo," a watercolor by Mary Chilton Gray.
Three illustrations of Southwestern Indian dress and dance.
The cover of Fossils by Harvey C. Markman, with a cover design and illustration by Mary Chilton Gray. Photographs of her murals appear inside.
Finally, a floral still life from about 1942.
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley


  1. HelloMr. Hanley,
    I am a graduate student researching Mary Chilton Gray for the Kirkland Museum in Denver. I am wondering if you could give me more information about the images. Are they in a private collection or are they available online? I know the Native American prints are at the Denver Public Library but I haven't been able to find the other paintings. Thank you for any information you can share with me!

    Savannah Hardin

  2. I have a painting from Mary Chilton Gray

  3. I have a watercolor painting of Taos Pueblo from Mary Chilton Gray. I would like to sell. You may contact me at