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Walter Gay Portrait

Walter Gay

Also Known as: Walter J. Gay

Hingham, Massachusetts 1856

Breau, France 1937

Active in:

  • Paris, France

Photo Caption:
Image is courtesy of the Photographs of artists in their Paris studios, 1880-1890 in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Luce Artist Quote

“I was searching for the spirit of empty rooms.” Walter Gay, Memoirs of Walter Gay, 1930


An expatriate who left Boston for Brittany, Gay began his career with genre scenes from eighteenth-century life, shifting in 1884 to the kind of realistic peasant picture seen in Novembre Étaples [SAAM, 1977.111]. He ultimately abandoned that subject matter as well, devoting himself in the last decades of his life to the elegant interiors that surrounded him in his château and in his Paris apartment.

Elizabeth Prelinger The Gilded Age: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (New York and Washington, D.C.: Watson-Guptill Publications, in cooperation with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2000)

Additional Biographies

Luce Artist Biography

Walter Gay was born into an old New England family and spent most of his adult life in Paris, as did many American artists of his generation. He married the wealthy American expatriate Matilda Travers in London, and when they returned to Paris, her fortune provided the couple with a comfortable life. The Gays divided their time between their country homes and their Paris apartment, all meticulously decorated and filled with collections of old-master drawings and French decorative arts. (Caldwell, Walter Gay: Poems d’Intérieurs, 2003)