Sir Francis Grant

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Sir Francis Grant

Son of Francis GRANT, of laird of Kilgraston and Anne OLIPHANT GRANT, of Rossie.

Sir Francis GRANT Married Isabella Elizabeth NORMAN on 08 JUL 1829 in Melton Mowbray,Leicester,England.

Sir Francis Grant was a notable Scottish artist of the 19th century. He was an associate of the Royal Academy from 1842 and also served as President of the Royal Academy, elected in 1866, after Edwin Landseer turned down the seat. It should also be noted that Sir Francis Grant was knighted, as well. He was the brother of General Sir James Hope Grant.

Sir Francis Grant was the son of a Scottish country gentleman, not of great means. Grant was born at Kilgraston, SW of Bridge of Earn (Perth and Kinross) in 1803, and educated at Harrow School. By age 26 he had squandered his patrimony and decided to earn his living as a painter. He had taken some lessons from John Ferneley, but was for the most part a self taught painter. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1834. Sir Francis Grant was known to be a sporting and portrait painter. Melton Breakfast, The Melton Hunt and The Cottesmore Hunt are some of his well known sporting paintings. Grant painted more than 800 portraits between 1831 and his death in 1878. Scott, Macaulay, Disraeli, Palmerston, and Landseer were among his sitters. Later in life Grant suffered from a sense of inferiority to his eventual successor Lord Leighton. Grant did enjoy the Queen's patronage, however, Queen Victoria regarded him to be an amateur country gentleman rather than an artist.


Life and work

Grant was the fourth son of Francis Grant, laird of Kilgraston, near Bridge of Earn, Perthshire, and his wife Anne Oliphant of Rossie. Grant was educated at Harrow School, and inherited a large sum of money on the death of his father in 1818 - a fortune which was apparently "soon spent". He had a passion for fox-hunting and other sports as a young man, and initially intended to become a lawyer. However, he left his studies to take up painting, of which he was mainly self-taught - partly by copying the works of Velasquez and other masters - though he briefly spent time in the studio of Alexander Nasmyth.

He acquired a reputation as a fine painter of "sporting" subjects, and in 1834 exhibited at the Royal Academy - a picture called Melton Breakfast (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,' purchased by the Duke of Wellington (both of these have been engraved, the former by F. Bromley, the latter by W. Humphreys).In 1841, he painted '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.

Grant was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, and in 1851 an academician. In 1866, on the death of Charles Eastlake, Edwin Landseer turned down the seat of Academy President, and Grant was elected instead. He was knighted soon afterwards.

Between 1834 and 1879 he contributed no fewer 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; John Hick, afterwards MP for Bolton and Mrs Hick; 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; John Sumner, archbishop of Canterbury; George Moberly, bishop of Salisbury; and John Gibson Lockhart. His portraits of the Marchioness of Waterford, exhibited in 1844, the Marchioness of Bristol, and of Mrs Markham (aka Daisy Grant - see below), 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.

Sir Francis was the brother of General Sir James Hope Grant, and the father of Anne Emily Sophia Grant (also known as Daisy Grant or Mrs. Colonel William Thomas Markham whose portrait, by her father, hangs in the National Gallery of Scotland, and has been noted for its depiction of Victorian womanhood.


Francis Grant was a younger son of a Scotch nobleman, whose profligacy with his rather limited inheritance compelled him to work as a painter. Grant was a most successful President of the Royal Academy, though his later years were somewhat overshadowed by his sense of inferiority to his eventual successor Lord Leighton.

Queen Victoria regarded him as an amateur country gentleman rather than an artist.

OBITUARY - The Times Monday October 7 1878

Lord Chelmsford (born 1794, Solicitor General 1844-45 Attorney General 1845 and 1852, and Lord Chancellor in 1858 and 1866 and Sir Francis Grant have passed away on the same day, two men who, each in his own way were representative personages, and who in their very different walks of life had similar careers. Neither was intended for the profession he ultimately followed; it would be flattering to say that either was indebted for success to brilliancy of talent; yet each rose to the highest rank in his calling, and now that death has removed them, the one at the age of 75, the other at the age of 84, two considerable personages have disappeared from English society. For nearly half a century the pictures of Sir Francis Grant have been appearing in the exhibitions of the Royal Academy, and he himself would not, perhaps, have disdained the compliment that he was a thoroughly English painter. The son of a Scotch country gentleman, he had a gentleman's love of field sports, and that partiality appeared in the earliest as well as the latest of his pictures. His reputation will mainly rest on his hunting scenes which he painted with sympathy and vigour. But he soon became a fashionable portrait painter, and the ordinary estimates of his power were mostly based on the multitude of canvasses on which he represented well-known men. Future generations will be indebted to his pencil for his likenesses of many of the personages who will then Illustrate the social and political life of our time.

But it is as President of the Royal Academy rather than as an artist he will hr remembered by members of his own craft. At the death of Sir Charles Eastlake (1793-1865 PRA) his social position and gifts pointed him out as a peculiarly suitable successor to that eminent artist and he occupied a difficult position with admirable tact and skill. A President of the Royal Academy must he much more than a painter, and it is precisely because Sir Francis Grant was much more than that he achieved a success it will not be easy to rival.


The office of President of the Royal Academy is a post of high honour, but of small profit. It has been successfully held by nine eminent painters, since the memorable day in 1768, when King George 111 nominated the first thirty-six Academicians, with Sir Joshua Reynolds at their head. At no succeeding epoch of the Academy's history has its body included more noted names than those which, in the order of time, stand at the head of its roll. Some of the number are now, no doubt, forgotten; but indelibly stamped on the annals of English art is the work of Thomas Gainsborough, Paul Sandby, Richard Wilson, Nathaniel Horne, Francesco Bartlozzi - great amongst engravers and Benjamin West, not forgetting Sir Joshua himself, by whom, far more than the royal founder, these inaugural nominations were made, as is possibly evinced by the fact that the first list contains the name of Angelica Kauffman, whose gentle beauty was not without influence on the heart of the greatest of English masters. Greatest of English teachers also; in some ways, he was; and we may be pardoned the suspicion that to his helping hand to this lady, who, in conjunction with Mary Moser, monopolises the Academy honours accorded to women, owes the masterly touch that is found in some of her canvases and is missing in others. Sir Joshua's presidentship was a long one, lasting from 1768 to 1792, and his successor Benjamin West's was even longer, closing in 1820, when Sir Thomas Lawrence entered on a rule of ten years, to be succeeded by Sir Martin Archer Shee, after who came Sir Charles L Eastlake, whose death in 1868 brings us down to the date of Sir Francis Grant's accession to the honours he still holds.

The position of President is peculiar, and requires a combination of talents not frequently be found together, for it demands an established standing as a painter combined with general urbanity and social rank. There is certainly no necessary connection between the study of art and Bohemianism; nevertheless a large proportion of young artist have at all times delighted in defying popular prejudice and revolting against convention; and beyond this there has been, from time to time, considerable difficulty in an artist taking much of a position in what is called society. Nor was it until very lately that the immense patronage flowing from the increased wealth of the country has enabled any number of our painters to build for themselves miniature palaces, attached to which are studios, adorned with curiosities from all parts of the world, with miscellaneous works of various and quaint kinds of beauty, with carved furniture, luxurious, or simply useful, and above all, with rich and precious gems of genius in various stages of perfection. Now, at last, society reckons artists among some of its richest and most useful members, because they can minister in so many ways to its gratification; the man with a taste in colour and in ornament can assist in decoration and variety of adornment, and can assist in choice of artistic embellishment in days when taste is a necessary element of refinement. When, therefore the time comes, which we trust is far distant, for a new election, there will be no lock of candidates fully qualified as to the two main requirements for the office of President. There are many men now who possess well-marked and recognised ability as painters, and also a knowledge of, and acquaintance with, the round of fashionable society, but when Sir Francis Grant was elected the choice was not so extensive. It is no disparagement to the President to say that we think he obtained his post as much by his social as by his artistic qualities. He is a gentleman by birth as by education, and his tact and manliness have assisted him greatly in an arduous and rather thankless task of representing a great and influential body in its dealings with the outside world.

Sir Francis Grant is the younger son of a Scottish laird, the late Francis Grant of Kilgraston, in Perthshire, and the elder brother of General Sir Hope Grant, GCB. He was born in 1803, and married early Miss Farquharson, sister of Sir James Farquharson, of Invercauld. Being left a widower he married Isabella, the third daughter of MR and Lady Elizabeth Norman, thus allying himself to the noble house of Manners, the portraits of not a few of whose members he has since painted. The tale of his early life may best be told in the words of Sir Walter Scott, as recorded in Lockhart's "Life" (vol vii, 1st Ed) :

March 26th 1831. Frank Grant and his Lady came here. Frank will, I believe, if he attends to his profession, be one of the celebrated men of the age. He has long been known to me as the companion of my sons, and the partner of my daughters. In youth, that is in extreme youth, he was passionately fond of fox-hunting and other sports. 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 expense of a good stud and a rare collection of chefs-d' oeuvre, he used to avow his intention to spend his patrimony-about £10.000-and then begin 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.

Connoisseurs approved of his sketches, both on pencil and in oil, but not without the sort of criticisms made on these occasions: that they were admirable for an amateur, but it could not be expected that he should submit to the drudgery absolutely necessary for a profession, and all that species of criticism which gives way before natural genius and energy of character. In the meantime Frank saw the necessity of doing something better to keep himself independent, having, I think too much spirit to become Jock the laird's brother, drinking the last glasses out of the bottles, riding the horses which the laird wishes to sell, and drawing sketches to amuse the lady and children. He was above all this, and honourably resolved to cultivate his taste for painting and become a professional artist. I am no judge of painting, but I am conscious that Francis Grant possesses, with much cleverness, a sense of beauty derived from the best source, that is, the observation of really good society, while in many modern artists the want in that species of feeling is so great as to be revolting. His former acquaintances render his entrance into the business completely secure, and it will rest with himself to carry on his success. He has, I think, that degree of force of character which will make him keep and enlarge any reputation he may acquire. He has confidence. Too, in his own powers, always a requisite for a young gentleman trying things of this sort whose aristocratic pretensions must be envied.

March 29. Frank Grant is still with me and is well-pleased, I think very advisedly so, with a cabinet picture of myself, armour, and so forth, together with my two noble stag-hounds. The dogs sat charmingly, but the picture took up some time."

In those early days, Mr Grant received much encouragement from the Earl of Elgin, who probably had a clearer perception of artistic talent than Sir Walter Scott, and who lent him pictures from his valuable collection. To a Velasquez, a portrait of the Duke d'Olivarez, which he thus had the opportunity of studying, the young artist acknowledged that he owed much of his after success. This is one of the instances, not uncommon we believe, of a single picture, thoroughly mastered, having a great influence in the training and development of artistic excellence. As the reading and re-reading of a single book will sometimes reveal powers of thought in a literary student, so the really great work of art of a master will some day, perhaps, after having been gazed at, admired and passed by amateurs of the more thoughtless crowd, awaken a latent fire in an enthusiastic breast, and encourage some late unknown aftercomer to cry out, "I, too, am a painter."

In Edinburgh, Mr Grant made many friends, amongst whom one of the most distinguished was Sir Watson Gordon, afterwards President of the Royal Scottish Academy. It was one of his friends in this capital-the President told the story when addressing the students of the Academy on the necessity of studying from nature as it really is-who once induced his brother (who must have had a very great admiration for his art) to stand for two hours with a wet garment about him, which, when the painter perceived the linen to be getting dry, had a fresh sprinkling from a watering-pot!

Mr Grant began exhibit in the Royal Academy in 1834, and at various intervals produced some large works, principally pictures of the various hunts. Amongst these are "The Meet of Her Majesty's Staghounds" 1837, "The Melton Hunt," "The Cotesmere Hunt," "A Shooting Party at Ranton Abbey," "The Melton Breakfast," "The Belvoir Hunt" (exhibited n 1869, but painted between 1845 and 1855), "A picture of the Queen on horseback in Windsor Park attended by her suite," and "Viscount Hardinge with his staff, after the battle of Ferozeshah."

It was not long before Mr Grant was recognised by the Academy: in 1842 he was chosen an Associate, and in 1851 he became an Academician. On the death of Sir Charles Eastlake, in 1866, he was elected to the vacant presidential chair, after Landseer turned it down, and he has filled that high office with dignity and grace. In accordance with the usual custom, he was knighted; and has since received the degree of DCL from the University of Oxford.

The annual dinners previous to the opening of the exhibition have always been some of the most select and interesting gatherings of the kind during the year, and certainly under Sir Francis Grant they have lost none of their rich and special character. When some of the greatest speakers in church and state, in politics and literature, are vying with one and other in graceful and good-humoured eloquence, the voice of Sir Francis is always listened to with interest and attention, and he never fails to look the President. But though he is thus alive to the social demands of the Academy, and is no less active in attending to the interests of art in its schools, and in its contact with other bodies, he has not neglected the pursuit of his profession. Since his election to the presidentship, he has sent six works to the public exhibition every year, with but two exceptions, and then he had five hung on the walls. A very large proportion of these work are life-size, and many of them equestrian portraits, very often presentation testimonials to members of Parliament, popular landlords, and successful directors, Sir Francis has kept up his early taste for sport, and paints horses and dogs as one who knows their points.

It is impossible to give anything like a complete list of the President's completed works, of which there are five, of very equal merit, in the current Academy.


Sir Francis Grant was a rather interesting individual, whose contribution to the Academy, and to national life has been overshadowed by that of Frederic Leighton, his bete noir, who succeeded him as President of the Royal Academy. Grant, the younger son of a Scottish laird, was very much a representative of the ancien regime. His roots were in the old aristocratic society of the eighteenth century, and his sitters came from this world, not that of the new nineteenth century industrial magnates. Grant was an excellent portraitist, of far more ability than I had realised. His self-portrait painted two years before his death is a brilliant piece of work. Unlike John Singer Sargent in his self-portraits he did not hide - his portrait is an excellent likeness and characterisation of the man. Should the interested observer wish to know what manner of man Grant was, there he is.

Francis Grant was also an excellent President of the Royal Academy, and supervised the construction of the extended Burlington House, and the move there. The impressive building owes much to his determination and resilience. He was also a prime mover in the establishment of the Winter Exhibitions, for which Leighton has, wrongly I think, be seen as the originator.

Francis Grant was a considerable artist, and an interesting individual.

Unfortunately I do not have the name of the author of this excellent piece.

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Gravesite Details Lived to the Age: 75 Yrs.





  • Created by: Our Family History
  • Added: 31 Dec 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 102876999
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sir Francis Grant (18 Jan 1803–5 Oct 1878), Find A Grave Memorial no. 102876999, citing St Mary Churchyard, Melton Mowbray, Melton Borough, Leicestershire, England ; Maintained by Our Family History (contributor 47719401) .