He was born in 1841 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His father, a freedman, was involved in the abolitionist movement. Grafton Tyler Brown worked for a printer in Philadelphia when he was just fourteen years old and learned the skill of lithography. Brown moved to San Francisco in the 1860s and he worked as a lithographer before becoming known as a painter in the 1880s.
He worked at Kuchel & Dressel in San Francisco from 1861–1867. In 1867 he opened his own firm and in 1878 he created The Illustrated History of San Francisco, which consisted of 72 topographical images of the city. He sold his company the following year.
He left the Bay Area in 1882 and moved to Victoria, British Columbia where he participated in the Amos Bowman Geological Survey. While in the survey, he served as a draftsman and documented the Cascade Mountains. In 1884 he moved back to the United States and traveled throughout the northwest and west, painting sites he visited like Mt. Rainier. He lived in Portland, Oregon, painting landscapes and also traveling to Yosemite to paint.
He visited Yellowstone in 1885 painting many of the areas beautiful landmarks and scenery. He made 28 of his park views available through a promotional brochure. You can see his View of the Lower Falls, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone at the following link. It hangs at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It's my favorite: https://goo.gl/QeL68X
In 1893, Brown moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota. In St. Paul he worked again as a draftsman, this time for the United States Army Corps of Engineers and for the city of St. Paul's engineering department. He died in St. Peter, Minnesota in 1918.