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 William Fitch Wray  (1891 - 1967)

About: William Fitch Wray


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Lived/Active: California/Alberta / Canada      Known for: landscape painting, miniatures, teaching

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William Fitch-Wray is primarily known as William Fitch Wray

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Ad Code: 4
Fitch Wray, landscape
An example of work by William Fitch-Wray
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following biographical data is an addition to earlier information from Christine Whitley (nee Sheila Christine Gunn), great-granddaughter of William Fitch Wray. Christine writes:  "I have been given an original newspaper article by a relative of Christina Wray, my great grandmother, that was done on my great grandfather (date unknown). The article reads as follows:"

Headline:  "Miniatures Found A Ready Market" by Jefferson Scoville

A noted author once said, "Behind every work of art, there lies the concept of its perfect execution" and this incisive thought applies perfectly to the miniature landscape paintings of Will Fitch Wray, a Costa Mesa painter whose works are known all over the country.

Fitch-Wray and his wife, Christina, came from Yucaipa, California last December and settled their home on 2303 Santa Ana Ave.  In his studio, just off the living room, he works daily at his easel, painting landscape miniatures, exquisite in detail, that have brought him national renown.

Christina helps in the less glamorous but important details of frame construction and canvas mounting.  For her this is a full time job because the demand often exceeds the supply.

Yet for all this demand, Fitch-Wray works, unhurried, at his easel, feeling that each new landscape is for him a unique experience.  In a moment of inspiration, he might paint the swell of a dark ocean wave rolling under a sky full of red.  Or, at other times, his canvas will become a desert scene of changing colors on a vast sweep of table-land ending in the distance with the sheer rise of blue mountains.

Through the hours of his busy day, he labors for perfection on his tiny works of art, seeking always to embellish and harmonize the beauties of nature, rather than merely reproduce them.  For Fitch-Wray, like any true artist, is a devoted servant to the rules of perspective, composition, and color.  He feels that without their knowledge, he could have never have painted as he paints today.

A native of England, Fitch-Wray received his education in the North London Academy Art college.  It was during these years that he studied many subjects, not all of them pertaining to art but which would be valuable to his later painting.

His other art training included schools in Paris, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.  His painting took him to 14 countries of the world where he painted all of nature, her clouds and mountains, valleys, forests and rivers.

Fitch-Wray came to the United States in 1922 and spent considerable time in Canada, absorbing and painting the land of the Canadian Rockies.  For seven years, he traveled and painted, such places as Banff, Alberta, and Vancouver, B.C. and until this time selling his paintings to commercial firms and private individuals.

During the war, he operated and art school in Santa Monica and painted airplane parts in detail for Douglas Aircraft's illustrated catalogue.  He did this in addition to his regular paintings that always found a ready market.

It was in Yucaipa that he first became interested in miniature paintings.  Living near the desert, he found a kaleidoscope of colors and feelings in the desert.  And he soon found that these moods, painted in miniature, were in great demand.  What buyers wanted were groups of four to six to embellish a living room or hall - paintings detailed in execution, delicate in color and balanced in composition.  Fitch-Wray devoted more and more time to these miniatures and soon had a thriving business.  Today, for example, Bullock's Department Store in Los Angeles alone buys 100 paintings a month for their enthusiastic customers.

As is inevitable with top quality artists, Fitch-Wray was soon approached by a group of Costa Mesa women who wanted art lessons.  He obliged, but strictly limits his class to seven members.  He feels that more can be taught and learned in an intimate group than in the more impersonal atmosphere of larger classes.

"Costa Mesa is potentially an art town," Fitch-Wray remarked.  "Many people here want to paint and if encouraged, their efforts and zeal will be an enviable asset to the community's cultural life."

Christine Whitley writes: "That's the end of the article.  Unfortunately, there is no date on the article, nor is the name of the newspaper.  The article was cut out of the newspaper (way back when) and that info has been lost.  There is a large photo of my great-grandfather, posing with some of his paintings at the top of the article.  He's not smiling in the photo - has his pinched face look - which is how I remember him.

As you already know, at some point he and great grandma moved back to Yucaipa.  That is the only home of theirs that I recall ever visiting.



This biography from the Archives of AskART:

William Fitch Wray was my great-grandfather and lived until I was 13.  He was the son of Henry Wray and Grace Fitch.  He married my great-grandmother, Christina Harding in Manitoba, Canada (where their daughter, Doreen Grace Wray was born).  They also had a son, Robert.  I don't know where he was born.  Grandpa Will & Grandma Chris met on a ship that sailed from Edinburgh, Scotland to Canada.
Grandpa Will painted until his death.  He had a small studio in a building directly behind their house.  There were hundreds of paintings in the studio. 
He had a green parrot (can't remember the name) that used to say the usual "Polly want a cracker".  It was nice to everybody except my mother; it would walk along the back of the couch and peck her in the head when she least expected it.

Grandpa Will was a very quiet person.  You had to really struggle to get him into a conversation.  I often wondered how he and my great-grandmother ended up together.  She was the sweetest person ever.
From the artist's great grand-daughter: nee Sheila Christine Gunn.

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Born in London, England on Feb. 13, 1891. William Fitch Wray settled in Santa Monica in 1922. For many years he worked in Hollywood as a scenic artist for the movie studios. He died at his home in Yucaipa, CA on Jan. 25, 1967.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
City Directory; Death record.
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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