Ellen Vaughn Grayson was born into one of the original pioneer families in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1894. Her interest in art, from early childhood, lead her to seek formal training, first privately, then graduating from Teachers’ College at Columbia University, New York with a Bachelor of Science and a professional certificate in Fine Arts in 1923. She continued her studies at the Curry School of Expressionism in Boston; St. Margaret’s College, Toronto, with the modernist artist Marion Long (1882-1970); and later she studied in Budapest.
Returning to Canada, Grayson worked as an instructor at Teachers’ Colleges in Regina and Moose Jaw. She moved to Summerland, in the Okanagan Valley, in 1929; later establishing a studio at Oyama overlooking Kalamalka Lake. She continued her artwork, painting and sketching the Okanagan Region, a favourite site for inspiration that would continue through her life and career as is evident in the works shown here.
Her work was included in group exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery in the 1940s, abroad in London and New York, and several annual exhibitions with the Society of Canada Painter-Etchers and Engravers held in Toronto in the late 1950s. Solo exhibitions of her work were held in Moose Jaw, Penticton, and in Kelowna. A retrospective was held at the Kelowna Art Gallery in 1985. Her works can be found in numerous public collections in Canada.
Like many artists of her time -- such as Hortense Gordon (1887-1961), Dorothy Stevens (1888-1966) and Yulia Biriukova (1897-1972) -- Grayson was dedicated to fostering a greater appreciation for art. Throughout her life and career she was committed to education, teaching at the Banff School of Arts and the Summer School of Fine Arts at Penticton and lecturing on a regular basis. She authored two books, Picture Appreciation, Elementary School (1929) and Picture Appreciation, Junior High School (1932). Both were used in school curriculum and received with enthusiasm and praise.
In 1961 Grayson returned to Moose Jaw but continued to spend summers in the Okanagan. She died in Moose Jaw in 1995.