Stephen Gray, 77, Arts & Crafts Collector, Scholar
AVON, CONN. — Stephen Gray, 77, died peacefully at his home on October 27. He was the father of Jeffrey and Lowell; grandfather of Rebecca, Samantha, Josephine and Alexandra; brother of Frances Archipenko Gray; beloved partner of Laura Harris.
He collected decorative arts from the American Arts and Crafts period and his collecting passion resulted in research, teaching, publishing, mentoring and a major exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn., in 2008. In 2011, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award presented at the annual Grove Park Inn Arts & Crafts Conference.
“Stephen was a unique and passionate visionary of the Arts and Crafts movement. From our first conversation nearly 32 years ago until this year, he was consistent in his praise and admiration of the objects from this era,” said gallerist Don Treadway. "Unlike many collectors who come and go, Stephen was not swayed by shifting trends and fashion, true to his eye and heart he was totally committed to the movement.
“His personal promotion and devotion to these objects was never in question, his passion was a fire that never went out … Rather through his many publications, support of the market or involvement in museum shows, he deeply embraced Arts and Crafts … he will be missed but not forgotten,” Treadway said.
Stephen began building his collection in the early 1970s, when he began furnishing an Eighteenth Century farmhouse in Columbia County, N.Y. As the collection grew, his passion for Gustav Stickley's work spawned a business. Operating as Turn of the Century Editions , Gray became a leading publisher of books on the American Arts and Crafts Movement.
He acquired or borrowed as many of the original sales catalogs printed by the Stickleys, Charles Limbert and the Roycrofters that he could find and in his goal to share this information with collectors and dealers all over the country, Gray reprinted the catalogs, nearly all of which are still in print today, according to Bruce Johnson, editor of Arts & Crafts Collector Online and longtime director of the Arts & Crafts conferences.
“As publisher of Turn of the Century Editions, Stephen Gray generously offered essential information to all those seeking to learn more about Gustav Stickley and the American Arts and Crafts movement at a time when there was little published about the subject,” said fellow collectors/authors Jeffrey Preston and Judith Budwig. “Stephen Gray's passion for early Gustav Stickley provided the impetus to many collectors who viewed him as their beloved mentor. Beyond that, he was, indeed, a teacher to an entire generation of collectors.”
Among the collectors he inspired was friend and collector Robert Kaplan. "His passion and dedication toward the American Arts and Crafts Movement and in particular, Gustav Stickley, was unmatched. He inspired me to do the same; he inspired many to do the same. His fight to live in the face of enormous health problems during the past few years will never be forgotten. Stephen's advice to me regarding life will be cherished."
Fellow Gustav Stickley aficionado Ed Friedman of Pittsburgh, Penn., met Stephen in 1981 at a Roycroft show in East Aurora, N.Y., and became close friends. He recalls Gray was a resource for many, and freely gave collectors his best and honest advice. "Stephen provided an unequalled love and benefit to the Arts and Crafts community. As a collector, he taught me how to focus on the finest things in the Arts and Crafts world."
Stephen was born in Manhattan and graduated from Stuyvesant High School and Syracuse University. After serving in the Army, he lived in New York, where he owned a printing business. He loved skiing, cooking, traveling, and reading.
A private graveside funeral was arranged by Weinstein's Mortuary in Valhalla, N.Y. A memorial reception will follow at a later date. Memorial donations may be made to the Wadsworth Atheneum, 600 Main Street, Hartford CT 06103 or www.thewadsworth.org.