Wilhelm Kray (1828-1889) was born in Berlin and after having spent a short spell as a goldsmith, in 1848 joined the Royal Prussian Academy of Art in Berlin where he studied under Julius Schrader and Wilhelm Schirmer, learning the skills of landscape and portrait painting. During a two year stay in Paris, from 1858 to 1860, Kray attended the studios of Alexandre Cabanel and Paul Baudry, and was profoundly influenced by their classically inspired, mythological and historical works feted by the French art establishment in the nineteenth-century.
Following his academic studies, Kray returned to Berlin, where he primarily painted portraits of the German Emperor and many members of the aristocracy. From 1867 to 1871 Kray resided in Rome, and from there made numerous trips to Venice and Naples. His time in Italy, and his delight in the enchanting landscape and coastline became the inspiration for his dreamlike backdrops to his delicate figurative paintings. In 1878, Kray moved to Vienna, where he established his reputation as a painter of figurative painting. His subjects - nudes, nymphs and goddesses - derived from the myths and stories of German folklore and mythology, captivated art collectors in Europe and America. Beautifully rendered, with a painstaking attention to detail, Kray’s delicate handling of paint and softness of brush established him as one of the foremost artists of this genre of painting.
Kray exhibited widely and from 1879 to 1888 participated in the International Exhibitions in Munich at the famous Glass Palace. The delicate and enchanting nature of his painting widely attracted his art to international collectors, and many of Kray’s paintings can be found in notable American private collections as well as in the Museums of Cologne and Graz in Germany.