Link seeks leads on mystery prints

By Samantha Tucker samantha@prairiepress.net
Posted 2/22/21

Link Art Gallery director Susan Stafford is searching for clues about two mysterious prints found in a rummage sale.

The mystery began when Paris resident Cindy Denson found the watercolor prints …

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Link seeks leads on mystery prints

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Link Art Gallery director Susan Stafford is searching for clues about two mysterious prints found in a rummage sale.

The mystery began when Paris resident Cindy Denson found the watercolor prints in a Terre Haute garage sale – one of the Edgar County Courthouse and the other of the former Big Four Depot train station. She bought the pieces for $1.00 each. They were signed Hart Gray and Marj Gray, and Denson’s inspection found an information sheet for “Gray’s Watercolor” within the frames.

Denson brought the prints to Stafford, who had never seen anything like them.

“To me it was just really interesting, and it’s interesting because I’ve been here since ’04 and I’ve never run across any of these,” Stafford said.

Her interest deepened when she researched Gray’s Watercolor, formerly The College Watercolor Group. Founded in Skillman, N.J. in 1965 by Paul and Wilda McConaughy, the company made limited-edition prints using lithographs and watercolor, in the tradition of the famous Currier and Ives. A mix of professional artists and talented everyday people worked an artistic assembly line, sitting around a rotating Lazy Susan table and painting one color of the composition each.

Eventually, an artist named E.B. Walden began signing his compositions “Gray,” after the color Davy’s Gray. The other artists caught on and began using Gray as a surname after their first names.

Gray’s Watercolor flourished in the years leading up to the American Bicentennial, but after the 1970s business seems to have dropped off. Stafford found a phone number for Gray’s Watercolor, but her attempts to contact them have gone unanswered.

A couple other people Stafford spoke to believe they also have Gray’s Watercolor postcards or prints but have not been able to shed light on why these or Denson’s prints were created.

“It sounds to me like someone must have commissioned them, maybe a bank or organization,” Stafford said. She believes they likely date to the period of the Bicentennial.

Stafford is almost out of leads, and now hopes someone will recognize the prints and come forward.

“It’d be interesting to know if someone knows how these prints came to be,” she said.

Stafford can be reached at parislinkartgallery@gmail.com.