In 1868, Gay went to Europe to pursue his studies in Karlsruhe, Germany, returning to the U.S. in 1864. He shortly thereafter moved to New York City and subsequently to Mt. Vernon, New York. Although he had begun painting in the Hudson River style, he became more of a Tonalist painter as his career developed, painting emotionally charged, low-light renderings of the landscape of Westchester County.
Gay enjoyed a long, successful career, becoming a member of the Century Association and the Union League Club in New York. He became an Associate of the National Academy in 1869 and was inducted as a full Academician in 1907. One of the more prominent members of the Cragsmoor art colony, he built a residence there in 1905. Edward Gay died in Mt. Vernon in 1928.
Gay’s work can be found in the collections of the National Academy, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Gallery, the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute (Utica, NY), the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City), the Smith College Museum, and the New York State Historical Society (Cooperstown, NY), among others.