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Bleu sur Bleu

Una Gray
Bleu sur Bleu, c 1920Oil on canvas
100.3 x 64.6 cm
Purchase, 1928

Una Gray (1873 - 1955) was the daughter of a prominent Halifax lawyer.  She was a member of George Harvey's first class at the Victoria School of Art & Design (now NSCAD University) in 1887, where she also studied under Henry M. Rosenberg.  After graduation she studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and at the Academie Julian in Paris, where she took up permanent residence.  Her portrait, Bleu Sur Bleu, was hung in the juried Salon d’Automne in 1924.  Little was heard of, or from, Una Gray in Halifax in the following years.  She was interned by the Nazis during World War II in Paris and spent the last years of her life on Vancouver Island.

The soldier in this painting is in the 'horizon blue' of the French infantry; most of the background is also blue and of the same shade which gives the canvas its name.  Although the only colour is in the face and hand of the soldier, there is nothing cold or aloof about the picture.  Gray herself noted that, “Several people have liked the picture owing partly I think to the nice Breton boy who posed for it.”  More than the attractive model, it is the poignant expression the artist captures that makes this image so appealing.

This work was an early purchase of the Nova Scotia Museum of Fine Arts, and was the principal attraction at the Museum's 1929 exhibition at the Lord Nelson Hotel -- one of its first public exhibitions.  The "Star", reporting on this event, favourably compared Ms Gray's accomplished treatment of colour (and composition one could add) to Gainsborough's The Blue Boy.

Shannon Parker
Curator of Collections
Tel 902 424 8457
Fax 902 424 0750