Lady Fairbairn wears a pale grey-blue and black trimmed full-skirted silk dress with a cream and paisley tasselled shawl draped around her shoulders. She presides over a table set with cups and saucers and holds an elegant silver teapot next to a samovar. Three children surround her, the two smallest to her right are Constance and James. One elder boy, Arthur, stands to her left. Arthur wears a dark red suit and is accompanied by a liver and white spaniel, which is seated on a bright red chair. In the background are two more children, a boy and a girl called Thomas and Mary. These two face away from the main scene and are looking at two deer - a doe and her fawn. An avenue of mature trees in full leaf form the background leading to the vanishing point.
Lady Fairbairn, born Allison Callaway, was the wife of a Victorian industrial magnate and art collector, Sir Thomas Fairbairn who commissioned the portrait. Sir Thomas was impressed by William Holman Hunt's work after visiting the 1853 Royal Academy Exhibition which led to his acquiring a number of Holman Hunt's pieces including 'The Awakening Conscience'. In the article 'Fruits of a Connoisseur's Friendship: Sir Thomas Fairbairn and William Holman Hunt' the author Judith Bronkhurst writes that Holman Hunt 'influenced Fairbairn's taste and the nature of his collection'.
As a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Holman Hunt had been influenced by his fellow artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais. Their secret movement was founded in 1848 and was considered by wider society to be shocking for the use of realism and bright colours in their art. The Pre-Raphaelite style of vivid colour and realism is much evident in the portrait of Lady Fairbairn and her Children. The picture was painted in 1864 and can be seen today at Torre Abbey, Torquay in Devon.