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Basil Gray

(1904—1989) museum curator


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(b. 21 July 1904; d. 10 July 1989). British museum curator and art historian. After taking a degree at Oxford, he spent a season in Istanbul with David Talbot-Rice at the British Academy excavations of the Great Palace of the Byzantine emperors. In 1928 he joined the staff of the Department of Printed Books at the British Museum; in 1930 he moved to the subdepartment of Oriental Prints and Drawings, then headed by Laurence Binyon, who encouraged his enthusiasm for the arts of Asia. Gray's involvement in the great 1931 Exhibition of Persian Art at the Royal Academy led to the publication with Binyon and J. V. S. Wilkinson of the monumental Persian Miniature Painting, and his relations with Binyon were strengthened by his marriage to Binyon's daughter Nicolète in 1933. He took charge of the Department of Oriental Antiquities in 1938 on the retirement of R. L. Hobson and was named Keeper in 1946, an office that he held until his retirement in 1969. During his tenure the Department's important but small holdings of Islamic and Far Eastern art were transformed into an outstanding collection of international renown. In 1966 he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy, and in 1968 he was named Acting Director and Principal Librarian of the British Museum. After his retirement he continued work with international societies and congresses devoted to Near Eastern and Asian studies and received numerous international honors.

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From The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.


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