Lord Archibald Campbell was the second son of Lord George Douglas Campbell, the eighth Duke of Argyll, and Lady Elizabeth Georgiana Campbell, née Sutherland-Leveson-Gower. He was a soldier, writer and businessman. In 1869 he married Janey Sevilla Callander, the third daughter of James Henry Callander Esq. of Craigforth, Stirlingshire, and Ardkinglass, Argyllshire. On her father's death she became ward of the Duke of Argyll. They had two children Niall Diarmid (b. 1872) and Elspeth Angela (b. 1873). Niall Diarmid succeeded his uncle, the Marquess of Lorne, as the tenth Duke of Argyll.
Lord Archibald Campbell was one of twelve children. His brothers were John George Edward Henry Douglas Sutherland, the Marquess of Lorne (b. 1845); Walter Campbell (b. 1848); George Granville, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy (b. 1850); and Colin Campell, M.P. for Argyllshire from 1878 to 1885 (b. 1853). His sisters were Edith, Countess Percy (b. 1849); Elizabeth (b. 1852); Victoria (b. 1854); Evelyn (b. 1855); Frances (b. 1858); Mary Emma (b. 1859); and Constance Harriet (b. 1864).
Lord Archibald Campbell was educated at Eton, St Andrews University and at Göttingen. He became a partner in the banking firm of Coutts and Co. in 1873 and one of the senior managing partners in 1894. He was appointed the first President of the Highland Association in 1892, and was elected in subsequent years until 1895. He was President of the Highland Society of London from 1893 to 1895. He was a member of the St James's Club in London.
Lord and Lady Archibald Campbell were introduced to Whistler probably through Lady Meux. In 1878 Whistler and 'little Archie', as Whistler called him, were on good terms, dining and going to the theatre together. For example, on 2 January 1878 Whistler asked Theodore Watts Dunton to tell Lord Archibald Campbell to arrange a box on Monday to see 'the belle Farina', that is, Nellie Farren (#09575).
The Campbells' patronage was important for Whistler's reputation following his bankruptcy in 1879, helping to restore his artistic position in London. He made a number of portraits of Lady Campbell. Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell in Court Dress (YMSM 240) was his first but was abandoned by the artist and probably destroyed. The Grey Lady: Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell (YMSM 241), begun around 1882, was also abandoned. For Arrangement in Black: La Dame au brodequin jaune - Portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell (YMSM 242) Lady Campbell posed in Whistler's studio in Tite Street against a background of black velvet. The portrait was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in May 1884 and in the Salon in May 1885, but the Campbell family rejected it, believing Whistler to have made Lady Campbell look like a common prostitute. At the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889 the painting was awarded a first class gold medal. According to Sickert (1917) Degas greatly admired the work and declared, 'Elle rentre dans la cave de Watteau.'
In 1881 Whistler designed a trellis for the Campbell's country home at Coombe Hill Farm, Norbiton, Kingston on Thames, r. and v.: Trellis (M.848). In May 1881 it was erected and painted, causing great exasperation to Lord Campbell and the decorators.
Lord Campbell and his wife were pioneers in encouraging the production of open-air pastoral plays. Around July 1884 Whistler painted Lady Campbell as Orlando in As You Like It,Note in Green and Brown: Orlando at Coombe (YMSM 317), produced at Coombe Hill Farm. The costumes for the production were designed by E. W. Godwin. Campbell's sister-in-law Lady Colin Campbell also posed to Whistler in 1886, Harmony in White and Ivory: Portrait of Lady Colin Campbell (YMSM 354).
Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, London, 1896; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.