He worked at first as a designer. He became a student in the Royal Academy Schools in 1826, and was elected an Associate in 1840 and an Academician in 1851 (retired, 1882). His Gulliver on the Farmers Table (1837) made his reputation as a painter.
Redgrave was an assiduous painter of landscape and genre; his best pictures being Country Cousins (1848), The Return of Olivia (1848), The Sempstress (1844) and Well Spring in the Forest (1865).
He began in 1847 a connection with the Government Art Schools which lasted for a long term of years, and among other posts he held those of inspector-general of art in the Science and Art Department, and art director of the South Kensington Museum. He was greatly instrumental in the establishment of this institution, and he claimed the credit of having secured the Sheepshanks and Ellison gifts for the nation.
He was Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures 1856-1880.
He died in 1888 and is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.