A specially commissioned artwork commemorating Andrew Grant, Edinburgh College of Art’s most significant benefactor, has been unveiled.
The work, Portrait of Andrew Grant, has been created by Kenny Hunter, one of Scotland’s leading artists and Programme Director of Sculpture at the College.
The work is cast in bronze but is designed to look like a clay bust of Grant set on a handmade wooden plinth.
I tried to make an artwork that reflects Andrew Grant’s legacy and his effect on the college. It is not just a likeness of him but more about what goes on in the studios of ECA: the creativity, the passage of time, the materiality. The most tangible thing about him for me is the longstanding creative support that he has given to young artists.
Andrew Grant (1830-1924) was one of ECA’s most generous donors. He provided a third of the funds for the construction of the Main Building on Lauriston Place in 1907 and left £350,000 to the College in his will, the equivalent of £15-18 million today.
His donation established the Andrew Grant Bequest that, since 1930, has provided travel scholarships for ECA students.
Scottish artists such as John Bellany and Elizabeth Blackadder benefited from the bequest. It continues to help students to this day.
Andrew Grant was born 13 June 1830 in Cassell’s Place, Leith Walk, the eldest of twin sons.
He was educated at Leith High School and at the University of Edinburgh, where he read Law.
Upon graduation he travelled to China before moving to India. In Bombay he joined a well-established law firm Messrs Campbell, Mitchell & Co. where he quickly became chairman.
In 1857, along with other professionals and merchants, he established the Royal Bank of India and became its first chairman.
He was a fellow of the Geographical Society and also became a fellow of the University of Bombay, which he helped found.
Grant returned to Britain in 1866, establishing a business in Liverpool. He retired aged 42 in 1873, having married Elizabeth Ann Townsend from Glasgow the previous year.
In 1875 he purchased the Invermay estate in Perthshire, his first country seat.
Three years later he was invited to stand as Liberal candidate for Leith Burghs, which he won comfortably. He held the seat until his retirement in 1884. His successor in the seat was William Gladstone.
In 1901 he moved to Pitcorthie House in Fife, a large and elegant mansion. Childless, Andrew and Elizabeth became legal guardians of a local child who became orphaned when her mother died in childbirth.
He died on 23 October 1924 and is buried in Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh.