Sir George Grey, governor of New Zealand from 1845 to 1853 and from 1861 to 1867, was the founding donor for Auckland's public library and its art gallery.

As well as a considerable manuscript and rare book collection, he presented the City with 58 works of art that were the nucleus of the Gallery's collection, including works by Caspar Netscher, Henry Fuseli, William Blake and David Wilkie.

Grey's 1887 gift of European, British and local paintings was displayed at the opening of the Auckland Art Gallery on 17 February 1888. He took a scholarly interest in Māori culture and language, and gifted his second collection of taonga Māori to the City of Auckland in 1893.