John, 3rd Earl of Eldon, was born in November 1845, the only son of the 2nd Earl of Eldon. He was born with the courtesy title Viscount Encombe, succeeding to the Earldom of Eldon upon the death of his father in 1854. He married Henrietta Minna Turnor, the daughter of Captain Henry Turnor in July 1896, and together they produced seven children.
George Richmond studied at the Royal Academy Schools from 1824, where he formed a lifelong friendship with fellow artist Samuel Palmer, becoming a part of a group that followed William Blake, called 'The Ancients'. His early work was strongly influenced by his close friend; indeed it was Richmond who had the sad honour of closing Blake's eyes at his death in 1827. Despite this influence, Richmond turned to portrait painting for a living, working in watercolour, chalk, and from 1846, in oil, his intimate portraits always with a richness of colour, fine detailing and sureness of execution. He was immensely successful and became one of Britain's leading portrait painters, popular among the most distinguished and famous people of the time. His sitters included the Prince of Wales, John Ruskin, Cardinal Newman and Charlotte Brontë. Richmond was elected R.A. in 1866, and he exhibited there one hundred and ninety six times between the years of 1825 and 1889.