Sir Francis Grant was the most fashionable portrait painter of his day. He painted royalty and aristocracy, as well as many leading figures in the legal and literary worlds, and the Church. His subjects included Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Palmerston, Disraeli, Lord John Russell, Sidney Herbert and Lord Derby.
Grant's career was determined by his social background and early interests. Born in Edinburgh on 18 January 1803, he was the fourth son of Francis Grant, laird of Kilgraston in Perthshire. There were family connections with the Earls of Seafield, and Grant would later marry the niece of the Duke of Rutland.
Grant was educated at Harrow, and as a young man, having quickly run through an inheritance of £10,000, he had hopes of repairing his fortunes at the bar. However, as Sir Walter Scott observed, 'law is not a profession so easily acquired, nor did Frank's talents lie in that direction. His passion for painting turned out better.' As an artist Grant was largely self-taught, learning by copying the Old Masters. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1834 when he was thirty-one, and continued to show there regularly until his death forty-four years later. He rapidly ascended the institutional ladder, and became president in 1866 on the death of Sir Charles Eastlake; a knighthood followed soon after. Grant was succeeded as president by Frederic, Lord Leighton.
On 24 June 1851, at the age of 23, Louisa Madeleine (1828-1916), daughter of Captain Francis Hawkins, married Francis Alexander Keith-Falconer (1828-1880), 8th Earl of Kintore. It was in this same year that the present portrait was executed, and Grant was elected a full member of the Royal Academy. Louisa became part of a very old noble family, the title having been created in the Peerage of Scotland in 1677, but with its roots going back to before the time of William the Conqueror. She is pictured standing within the grounds of a grand house, probably Keith Hall in Aberdeen. Grant's composition is based on that of his 1844 portrait of Louisa Stewart, 3rd Marchioness of Waterford (Private Collection). When the Kintore portrait was exhibited in 1852, the Art Journal observed that 'the lady is presented in a Gainsborough-looking garden composition. The maintien of the figure is extremely elegant; the white satin is lustrous, and like the material.' After Grant's death the picture of Louisa Madeleine came to be regarded as one of his finest female portraits.
We are grateful to Dr Catherine Wills for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.