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Brown, Grafton Tyler


The African-American painter and lithographer Grafton Tyler Brown (1841-1918) was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to a family of freed slaves from Maryland; the family moved to San Francisco in 1855. Brown worked for the lithography firm of Kuchel & Dresel, where he specialized in drawing maps and "bird's-eye" views of cities and towns in Nevada and California. After the death of the owners Brown purchased the firm, renaming it G.T. Brown & Co, but he sold the business in 1879 in order to devote his time to painting. He moved to Victoria, British Columbia, joining the Canadian government's geological survey of the Cascade Mountains and exhibiting his works there in 1883. The following year he moved again, this time to Washington state, where he frequently painted Mt. Ranier. From 1886 to 1889 the peripatetic artist had a studio and home in Portland, Oregon, where he was a member of the Portland Art Club. But by 1892 Brown was on the move again, relocating to St. Paul, Minnesota where he remained until his death in 1918. During the last twenty-five years of his life, Brown worked as a draftsman and civil engineer for the U.S. Army Corps. Though he continued to be listed in the St. Paul city directories as an artist, no paintings by him have been found from this period. His paintings are in the collections of museums throughout the United States, and are valued for their documentation of the Western wilderness.