Frank Holl originally painted genre pictures, sometimes addressing social evils of the day. These paintings include ‘The Deserter,’ and ‘Newgate-Committed For Trial’ the second being an effective though grim social document.
Holl then changed course, to become a leading painter of portraits. Famous sitters included Gladstone, Leverhume, and Joseph Chamberlain. He also painted a portrait of Millais, who remarked that Holl was a ‘nice man,’ but applied too much paint. The rather humble Holl was overawed by the great painter, and his ostentatious surroundings, rather to the surprise of the genial Millais.
He became ARA in 1878, and a full RA in 1882. Holl was an unassuming rather nervous character, and the move to portrait painting whilst successful financially, was disastrous for him personally, and was felt by his family to have contributed to his premature death.