Graham's large paintings celebrate the romantic character of the Scottish Highlands. He trained at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh under Robert Scott Lauder and at first worked on figure subjects. From 1859 he began to concentrate on landscape painting after an inspiring holiday in Deeside. Graham chose to paint on a scale which emphasised the awe-inspiring magnificence of the scenery. His response to the landscape was also influenced by the paintings of Horatio McCulloch and the poetry of Sir Walter Scott. He enjoyed great success at the Royal Scottish Academy and from 1866, at the Royal Academy, London.