Walwyn Graves was the son of Morgan Graves, of Mickleton Manor, near Evesham, Gloucestershire, and his wife Anne Walwyn, daughter of James Walwyn of Longworth, Herefordshire. He matriculated from Oriel College, Oxford on 26 October 1761, and married Sarah Fletcher. It is likely that he was introduced to Gainsborough through his uncle, the poet and rector Reverend Richard Graves (1715-1804). Richard Graves was a particular friend of Gainsborough, and wrote poetry on the artist's work. Gainsborough executed his portrait in coloured chalks, c.1785, now in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York.
Walwyn is recorded as having built a new front with a portico onto Mickleton Manor. His memorial tablet in St. Lawrence Church, Mickleton, Gloucestershire records that 'He was considered to be the kindest and most attached of relatives; The sincerest and most cordial of friends; The gentlest and most civilised; The most honourable of men'.
The present portrait was painted circa 1770, when Gainsborough was in Bath. Gainsborough had moved to Bath in 1759, where portrait commissions were plentiful; the constantly changing population of visitors ensured that he quickly established himself as a portrait painter there, and notably was able to raise his prices considerably soon after his arrival, and again between 1770 and 1772.
We are grateful to Hugh Belsey for his assistance with this catalogue entry.