Lindsay was the eldest son of Lieutenant-General Sir James Lindsay, son of the Hon. Robert Lindsay, second son of James Lindsay, 5th Earl of Balcarres. His mother was Anne, daughter of Sir Coutts Trotter, 1st Baronet, a principal partner in Coutt's Bank. Robert Loyd-Lindsay, 1st Baron Wantage, was his younger brother. In 1839 he succeeded by special remainder to his maternal grandfather's baronetcy (which became extinct on Lindsay's own death). He then entered the army, commanding the 1st Regiment of the Italian Legion during the Crimean War before retiring from military life to devote himself to art. From 1862 to 1874 he exhibited many pictures, including various successful portraits. In 1879 he and his first wife, Lady Lindsay (of Balcarres), were both elected to membership of the Institute of Painters in Water Colours. His studio at 4-5 Cromwell Place was also used by Archibald Stuart-Wortley.
He and his first wife founded the Grosvenor Gallery in 1877 as an alternative to the Royal Academy. It was devoted to exhibiting works by the Pre-Raphaelites (then held to be too stylistically advanced for the Royal Academy) and becoming the focus of the Aesthetic Movement from then until its closure in 1890. Its inaugural exhibition on 1 May 1877 included James Whistler's Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, leading to the famous libel trial between Whistler and John Ruskin. Coutts was important to the careers of Coutts' friends Whistler and George Frederic Watts in providing a sympathetic venue for the display of their work. However, the gallery declined after Lindsay separated from his first wife, and it closed in 1890. In the 30 years before her death she then lived in London and Venice, gathering a circle of friends including Alma Tadema, GF Watts and Robert Browning and collecting a number of fine paintings (some of which she left to the National Gallery). She also published several volumes of poetry, including From a Venetian Balcony (1903) and Poems of Love and Death (1907).
He first married in 1864 to the distinguished artist, novelist and poet Caroline Blanche Elizabeth Fitzroy  (born 1844, died 10 August 1912, London), daughter of the Rt. Hon. Henry Fitzroy by his wife Hannah Mayer de Rothschild (daughter of Nathan Meyer Rothschild). Her portrait by Joseph Middleton Jopling is at the National Portrait Gallery, London. His daughter Harriet Euphemia Susan Lindsay married Thomas Selby Henrey, who was father of Robert Selby Henry, who was father of Bobby Henrey.
His second marriage, in 1912, was to Kate Harriet Burfield (d. 1937).
- Edward the Black Prince
- Boadicea: A Tragedy, 1857
- Walkley, Giles, Artists' houses in London 1764–1914, Aldershot, 1994
Casteras, Susan P., Colleen Denney, The Grosvenor Gallery: a Palace of Art in Victorian England, New Haven, 1996 The Annual Register 1913, p. 95
- Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, on-line edition (accessed 2004).
- Portraits of him, National Portrait Gallery
- John Hannavay, Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-century Photography
- Jopling's original watercolour of Sir Coutts Lindsay, 2nd Bt is in the National Portrait Gallery, London.
- thepeerage.com Sir Coutts Lindsay, 2nd Bt
- "Author: Lady Caroline Blanche Elizabeth Lindsay (1845–1912)". At the Circulating Library: a database of Victorian fiction, 1837-1901.