Kemp, who had originally trained as a carpenter, was one of the 54 entrants in the 1836 competition for a Walter Scott memorial in Edinburgh. Inspired by medieval ruins and Gothic architecture, he entered under the pseudonym of John Morvo, a name that appears as an inscription on Melrose Abbey and is thought to have been of a mason working on the building. The proposals earned him one of three prizes, and when the competition was rerun in 1838 Kemp won the commission. Initially controversial, his monument to Scott is a striking Gothic structure that dominates Princes street. Sadly, Kemp drowned in the Union Canal before the monument’s completion. His brother-in-law, William Bonnar, the artist of this portrait, supervised the building work until its conclusion.