After studying with Léon Cogniet, Hugues Merle became a regular contributor to the Salon between 1847 and 1880, receiving medals for his entries in 1861 and 1863 (possibly with this canvas). His themes of family love centered around the hearth and home found a ready audience with the newly affluent French and American art patrons. Merle's interest in depicting social themes in his work can also be seen in Rocking the Cradle (Christie's, New York, February 11, 1996, lot 39). Merle's solid reputation was capped by his election to the Legion of Honor in 1866 just a few years after The Grandparents' Visit was painted. Merle also enjoyed the support of Adolphe Goupil, the most prestigeous art dealer in Paris whose other leading artists were Bouguereau and Gérôme. Merle and Bouguereau not only depicted similar subjects but also employed high finish and naturalistic technique that made their work almost indistinguishable. This affinity is also apparent in the work of Merle's pupil, Elizabeth Gardiner, who later became Bouguereau's wife and one of the nineteenth century's more distinguished American Salon painters. Merle's impact on his contemporaries can be documented by his prolific career. He sent paintings to the Salon up until the last year of his life and had no less than fifty-two of his paintings listed as being in the most important American collections by 1878. His reputation was equally great at home, where he enjoyed the patronage of the Duc de Morny.