Ayrshire-born John Galt was both a prolific writer and a determined businessman. In 1804 he moved to London and following a failed business venture decided to travel to the Mediterranean. Whilst away he struck up a friendship with Lord Byron. On his return he published accounts of his travels, biographies of Cardinal Wolsey and Benjamin West, tragedies and novels. His best known work, ‘The Annals of the Parish’ (1821) describing life in the west of Scotland, was pronounced by Sir Walter Scott to be “excellent”. In 1826 he went to Canada where he founded the town of Guelph, but again his enterprise failed and he returned to England. He had a stroke in 1832 and so returned to the family home at Greenock, where this portrait was almost certainly painted three years later.