William Graham 1817 – 1885

A Liberal MP for Glasgow, wine merchant and port shipper from Portugal, cotton manufacturer and importer of dry goods from India. He is remembered as a friend and patron of Pre-Raphaelite artists such as Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti and was a collector of their works. His monument, in compartment Upsilon, in the Glasgow Necropolis was designed by Edward Burne-Jones.

Graham’s father was the founder of W & J Graham & Co. In 1810 it diversified its business interests when it began importing wines from Portugal and the company became one of Britain’s most prominent port shippers. Graham was a moderate Liberal, who was elected on 14 July 1865 with Robert Dalglish (1808–1880) in Glasgow. He was re-elected in 1868 with Dalglish and George Anderson (1819–1896) in the party’s great Glasgow triumph in the general election of 1868 when Glasgow’s electoral representation was raised from two to three MPs. He stood down in 1884 due to illness.

Graham was a friend and patron and acted as sort of an agent of Burne-Jones from 1856. He really helped him get started on his career and remained one of his most important patrons for twenty years.

Graham acquired a large collection of his paintings starting in the mid 1860s. In the 1870s, Graham commissioned the two large oils Laus Veneris (now in Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne) and Chant d’Amour (now in Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). These were the most important items in his collection. The artist became quite close to the family, especially to Frances, (Mrs. Horner, later Lady Horner) one of Graham’s daughters. The Graham piano (still with the family) was painted for Frances who, after her father’s death continued his role as friend and patron of Burne-Jones.

The Graham piano https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRrZcxgvEy8

and a painted casket http://www.christies.com/features/Burne-Jones-casket-for-Frances-Graham-7472-1.aspx

Graham was also a patron of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and commissioned Rossetti’s Found for £800 in 1869; the painting remained unfinished, and he only took possession of the work after the painter’s death in 1882. In 1871, Graham also commissioned The Blessed Damozel (1871) and acquired La Donna Della Finestra in 1880 from him. He also commissioned the very large Dante’s Dream, although this was found to be too big for his London house.

Graham’s importance is not only as a purchaser and a patron, but also as a person whose fine collection of early Italian paintings helped to inspire the artists whom Graham supported such as Edward Burne-Jones and Rossetti. After his death from stomach cancer, his collection was sold at auction by Christie’s in April 1886 and many of the pictures he owned are now in Tate Britain.

Link to paintings he owned http://arthistoryreference.com/t145/5940.htm

Links to just a few of the works he commissioned or purchased from Burne-Jones:



You can read more about Graham and Burne-Jones in Fiona MacCarthy’s biography of Burne-Jones, The Last Pre-Raphaelite. Some of it is available on Google Books:


There’s also a lot in the catalog of the 1998 Burne-Jones exhibition, also available online


The most thorough account of their relationship is in Oliver Garnett, “The Letters and Collection of William Graham, Pre-Raphaelite Patron and Pre-Raphael Collector,” The Volume of the Walpole Society, vol 62, 2000, pp. 145-343.


William Graham - Monument

William Graham – Monument

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