watercolour and pen-and-ink artist, etcher and amateur photographer(?), was born in Dublin into a cultured Anglo-Irish family. Her brother, Richard Sharpe, was the inventor of the chronograph and a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy. Elizabeth Sharpe was in Sydney early in 1857 where she painted two watercolours, Sydney Town and Harbour in 1857 and Sydney Heads (1857, LT), apparently en route to Victoria. On 19 March she married Charles Gray at Portland. Charles owned a property at nearby Nareeb Nareeb, near Wickcliffe, where they lived after their marriage. They had at least three daughters, the eldest, Annie, being born at Portland on 14 April 1858.

Mrs Gray continued to produce artworks after her marriage. She specialised in pen and ink line drawing (often called 'etching’) on a variety of surfaces including eggs. View of Ferntree Gully, Victoria, 19 February 1860 is drawn on porcelain. In 1864 she contributed four landscapes and a rural scene, Sheep Washing (medium unspecified), to the fourth Annual Exhibition of Fine Arts in Melbourne, her address in the catalogue being 'Inverleigh’. Like her husband, she exhibited at the 1866 Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition, showing watercolour views of Schnapper Point and Queenscliff and two 'etchings’ (pen-and-ink drawings) titled The Bluff and Beech Trees . Her 'watercolour drawing of a portion of Queenscliff’ was lent to the same exhibition by the Queenscliff town clerk, while another resident exhibited a set of her doilies described as 'etchings on linen, done with marking ink and a quill pen’. The doilies received a medal.

Mrs Gray presented two vases – made from black swan eggs on which she had etched 'some sketches of natural history’ – to the Duke of Edinburgh during his visit to Victoria in 1867 (shown at the 1872 Exhibition at the South Kensington Museum cat. 50 and 51; ill. Australiana August 1999, 71). Prince Alfred was so impressed he asked Mrs Gray to make another pair for the Queen. 'Delighted to comply with the Royal request’, she made two pairs of vases mounted in silver. The larger had bases of polished blackwood surmounted by flower baskets, and the eggs were etched with a view of the royal ship Galatea outside Port Phillip Heads, the same vessel entering the heads, Mount Sturgeon and a scene in the Western District of Victoria. The smaller were in the form of ferns, with leaves of frosted silver, surmounted by eggs on which were etched views of Ferntree Gully and Wannon Falls respectively. A 'pen sketch on black swan’s egg of Wannon Falls by Mrs. Gray’ was recorded by the Bendigo Advertiser on 23 August 1869.

At the Victorian Intercolonial Exhibition preceding the 1873 London International, Elizabeth Gray showed two pen-and-ink drawings of Aborigines and two watercolours – a coastal scene and a view of a sheep station near Portland – as well as 'Swan Egg, with Colonial Scenery’ and 'Sundry Vases, with Drawings’. Prince Alfred’s eggs were sold, but the Queen’s two pairs are still at Osborne House, Isle of Wight (ill. Australiana August 1999, 69, 70). An opaline glass panel etched by Gray with a scene in a fern gully also survives (LT). The 'Photographs of Aborigines etc.’ shown by Mrs Gray of Nareeb Nareeb at the 1888 Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition may also have been her own productions. Elizabeth Gray died on 29 April 1903.

Fox, Paul
Date written:
Last updated: