Smokies Splendor

A Permanent Collection of Works by Jim Gray

The East Tennessee Historical Society in partnership with the Jim Gray Irrevocable Trust is excited to announce the establishment of Smokies Splendor: A Permanent Collection of Works by Jim Gray

Nearly 50 years ago, I walked into the mountains of East Tennessee for the first time and knew that we had found the place to call home. With beauty in every direction to paint, visitors from all across the nation and world coming to see the Great Smokies, and not another gallery in the town of Gatlinburg at the time, this place had everything we could have hoped for. At age 34, I dove headlong into all that East Tennessee had to offer, and it became a lifelong love of the fields and mountains, streams and wildflowers, rural farms, urban architecture, and the people who lived and worked here. Looking back, I find it hard to imagine a better place to have spent a lifetime as a painter and sculptor. It is harder still to imagine that, God willing, my next birthday will be 84, as in my mind I recall so many wonderful images as if it were only yesterday. It is with this realization of time passing that I take particular joy in having been extended the honor of a Permanent Collection of my artwork in the Museum of East Tennessee Historical Society; the one place that truly captures the full scope of the people and places that make the area so wonderfully unique. To the staff of the Museum and to all who have contributed to making this permanent collection a reality, I offer my utmost gratitude. I hope in some way that having these paintings and sculpture within the Museum will bring to others at least a portion of the joy that creating them has for me.




About Jim Gray

In 1966, Gray and his family visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was completely unlike his birthplace in West Tennessee or his home in southern Alabama. Gray was taken by the scenic landscapes and rural beauty of the park and surrounding areas and relocated to East Tennessee.

The vibrant colors and sweeping scenery of his paintings caught the eye of a National Geographic journalist who was visiting the park in 1968. Gray’s descriptions of the area were vivid enough that the journalist included him in the article. This encounter led to greater media coverage of the park and of Gray’s work, and ultimately led to the inclusion of a photo of the National Geographic article on a recording disk attached to the space probes Voyager I and Voyager II.

Gray was the 2003 recipient of the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Distinguished Artist Award, Tennessee’s highest artistic award. His paintings feature the scenic vistas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its adjacent rural communities, as well as the architecture of the Old City and downtown Knoxville. His paintings and bronzes, including sculptures of Alex Haley, Dolly Parton, Mary Costa, Roy Acuff, and President Andrew Johnson, received national recognition.


About the Collection

Jim Gray passed away on December 10, 2019. To preserve the works of this notable East Tennessean, the East Tennessee Historical Society in partnership with the Jim Gray Irrevocable Trust has established Smokies Splendor: A Permanent Collection of Works by Jim Gray.

This collection was started by a generous gift of paintings and bronzes from the Jim Gray Irrevocable Trust, valued at $100,000. It is the goal of the East Tennessee Historical Society to expand this collection to include a total of 24 paintings and several notable bronze sculptures. All told, the value of the collection will exceed $1,000,000.

ETHS invites you to contribute to the acquisition and preservation of this remarkable East Tennessee collection.  Your donation will receive a taxable income write-off for the full amount donated.

Join the East Tennessee Historical Society and the Jim Gray Irrevocable Trust in preserving the work of one of East Tennessee's most noted painters and establishing the legacy collection, Smokies Splendor: A Permanent Collection of Works by Jim Gray.


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