Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Grant, Francis (1803-1878)

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GRANT, Sir FRANCIS (1803–1878), portrait-painter, born in Edinburgh on 18 Jan. 1803, was fourth son of Francis Grant, laird of Kilgraston. General Sir James Hope Grant [q. v.] was his brother. He was educated at Harrow School, and was intended for the bar. 'In youth, that is in extreme youth,' writes Sir Walter Scott in his diary on 26 March 1831, 'he was passionately fond of fox-hunting and othersports, but not of any species of gambling. He had also a strong passion for painting, and made a little collection. As he had sense enough to feel that a younger brother's fortune would not last long under the expenses of a good stud and a rare collection of chefs-d'œuvre, he used to avow his intention to spend his patrimony, about 10,000l., and then again to make his fortune by the law. The first he soon accomplished. But the law is not a profession so easily acquired, nor did Frank's talents lie in that direction. His passion for painting turned out better.' Although he enjoyed no systematic artistic training beyond having received when a boy twelve lessons in drawing the human figure, yet such was his ability that by copying the works of Velazquez and other masters he made rapid progress, and gained an early reputation as a painter of sporting scenes. He was already thirty-one when he first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1834, sending an equestrian portrait of Captain Vandeleur and the 'Breakfast Scene at Melton,' which was engraved by Charles G. Lewis. In 1837 he exhibited 'The Meeting of His Majesty's Staghounds on Ascot Heath,' painted for the Earl of Chesterfield, and in 1839 'The Melton Hunt,' which was purchased by the Duke of Wellington. Both of these have been engraved, the former by F. Bromley, the latter by W. Humphreys. He likewise painted in 1841 'A Shooting Party at Rawton Abbey' for the Earl of Lichfield, and in 1848 'The Cottesmore Hunt' for Sir Richard Sutton. In 1840 Grant exhibited an equestrian group of Queen Victoria riding with Lord Melbourne and others in Windsor Park, and at once became the fashionable portrait-painter of the day. His portrait of Lady Glenlyon, exhibited in 1842, increased his reputation, and for nearly forty years the most graceful and refined portraits in the Royal Academy exhibitions came from his studio. In 1842 he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, and in 1851 an academician. On the death of Sir Charles Eastlake in 1865, and after Sir Edwin Landseer had declined the honour of succeeding him, Grant was elected president in March 1866, and was shortly afterwards knighted. He filled the position with good taste, tact, and dignity. Between 1834 and 1879 he contributed no less than 253 works, many of which were full-length portraits, to the exhibitions of the Royal Academy. Among these works were equestrian portraits of Queen Victoria and the prince consort, painted for Christ's Hospital; the Prince of Wales; an equestrian group of the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort; Sidney Herbert, afterwards Lord Herbert of Lea; Lord John Russell, afterwards Earl Russell; Benjamin Disraeli, afterwards Earl of Beaconsfield; General Sir James Hope Grant; Sir George Grey; Edward, earl of Derby, first lord of the treasury; Lord Clyde; Viscount Palmerston, painted for Harrow School; Viscount Gough; Lord Truro, lord high chancellor; Sir Frederick Pollock, lord chief baron; Sir William Erle, lord chief justice of the common pleas; Dr. Sumner, archbishop of Canterbury; Dr. Moberly, bishop of Salisbury; and John Gibson Lockhart. His portraits of the Marchioness of Waterford, exhibited in 1844, and of Mrs. Markham, exhibited in 1857, claim notice among those of ladies. After some years of gradually failing health, Grant died of heart disease very suddenly at his residence, The Lodge, Melton Mowbray, on 5 Oct. 1878, and was interred in the church of England burying-ground in that town, his relatives having declined the usual honour of burial in St. Paul's Cathedral.

The National Portrait Gallery has Grant's portraits of Field-marshal Viscount Hardinge; Lord Campbell, lord high chancellor; Lord Macaulay, a study in oil for the portrait in the possession of Viscountess Ossington; and a pen-and-ink sketch of Sir Edwin Landseer. There is 'A Jewish Rabbi' by him in the National Gallery of Scotland, and in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery a small full-length portrait of Sir Walter Scott with his two staghounds, commissioned by Lady Ruthven in 1831, and said by John Gibson Lockhart to be 'the last really good portrait that was painted.' His own portrait, painted by himself, is in the possession of his son, Colonel Francis Grant, and another portrait, painted by J. P. Knight, R.A., is in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

[Times, 7 Oct. 1878; Athenæum, 1878, ii. 473; Academy, 1878, ii. 367; Builder, 1878, p. 1072; Graphic, 19 Oct. 1878, with portrait; Art Journal, 1878, p. 232; Illustrated London News, 10 March 1866, with portrait; Eclectic Magazine, 1866, new ser. iii. 770, with portrait; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers, ed. Graves, 1886-9, i. 594; Sandby's Hist. of the Royal Academy of Arts, 1862, ii. 294–7.]

R. E. G.