||This 'conversation piece' of a prominent naval officer and his family in a domestic interior is also a formal group portrait in which dress and other details mark the status of the sitters. Richard Grindall stands in Royal Naval captain's uniform (the 1795-1812 undress pattern), accompanied by his wife and four sons. He holds his sword at his right side (though even in a home setting being fully dressed by wearing it to his left might appear less staged). The boys are also in uniform or best gentlemanly dress for their ages and their mother in a fine white muslin gown with a fashionble turban. A painting of a naval action hangs on the wall behind in the centre of the room and a portfolio of maritime prints is open on a desk to the right, both reinforcing thesignificance of seafaring to Grindall family life. The painting is indistinctly signed on the portfolio, 'R Livesay'.
Grindall, having presumably begun in the merchant service, entered the Navy as an able seaman, aged 21, on 7 January 1772. He joined the ‘Resolution’ on James Cook’s second Pacific voyage, 1772–75, berthing with the midshipmen as was usual for 'young gentlemen' rated interchangeably with them as 'AB' or master's mate. He was finally promoted lieutenant on 29 November 1776 during the War of American Independence and saw action in the ‘Barfleur’ off Martinique. He was promoted captain on 13 March 1783, commanding the sloop ‘St Vincent’. During the French Revolutionary War, he commanded the frigate ‘Thalia’ and the 74-gun ‘Irresistible’, being involved in the Battle of Groix in June 1795. The rest of the war was spent on blockade and convoy duty in a series of commands in ships of the line.
The return of war in 1803 saw Grindall in command of the huge 98-gun ‘Prince’, a slow and ungainly ship with a justified reputation for ‘sailing like a haystack’. He was in Collingwood’s division at Trafalgar but the ‘Prince’ was overtaken by the rest of the line as it joined battle with the French and Spanish fleet. By the time Grindall reached the action, the fighting was all but over, leaving little for the ‘Prince’ to contribute to the British victory. The ship proved invaluable after the battle, rescuing sailors, towing damaged vessels and providing stores. Grindall was promoted rear-admiral of the blue in the post-Trafalgar promotions of 9 November 1805, taking a shore position and retiring in 1810 after advancing to Vice-Admiral of the Blue on 31 July that year, and later Vice-Admiral of the Red. In 1815 he was knighted (KCB) in the post-war re-institution of the Order of the Bath.
Two of Grindall’s sons died of illness while in naval service. Edmund, the youngest son (here shown holding his mother’s hand), died as a midshipman, aged 20, on 21 September 1811; Festing Horatio, the third son probably standing to his father's left in midshipman's dress, died as a lieutenant on 23 May 1812, aged 25. Grindall himself died at Wickham, in Hampshire on 23 May 1820 and his wife Katherine on 6 February 1831, aged 72. There is a memorial to them in St Nicholas’s Church, Wickham.
The artist, Richard Livesay, exhibited 69 paintings at the Royal Academy between 1776 and 1821; this group portrait was exhibited in 1800 (no. 46). Between 1777 and 1785 he lodged with William Hogarth’s widow while working in London and producing facsimiles of Hogarth's work. Later, he was a pupil of Benjamin West, copying pictures at Windsor Castle and acting as a drawing instructor for some of the royal children. From 1796 until 1811 he was drawing master at the Royal Naval Academy (College from 1806) in Portsmouth, with which he is mainly associated, and found a wide naval and military clientele there.