James Faed

(4 April 1821 - 23 September 1911)

Artist and Engraver, James was the second son of the six children of James Faed, tenant of Barlay Mill, near Gatehouse of Fleet, Galloway, and Mary née McGeoch. Two of his brothers, John and Thomas also became artists.

In his early years his father thought James had a marked talent for engineering. When he was sixteen he built a dinghy in one of the outhouses at Barlay Mill, taking him a year. At seventeen he went to Maryport with his father and brother John. While John was painting miniatures, James did the same work as hs father's men.

However, with his father's death and his work at Barlay Mill virtually at an end, James, in 1846, joined his two brothers, John and Thomas, who were living at South West Circus Place in Edinburgh. James began to paint fine landscapes, miniatures, and portraits in oils and watercolours and became a regular exhibitor at the Royal Scottish Academy for twenty years. His watercolour Coast Scene on the Colvend Coast is in the Aberdeen Art Gallery. Two of his miniatures, Isabella Lockhart Robertson and Miss Mary Duncan (both now in private hands) are particularly fine.

Introduced to the mezzotint engraver, John Bonnar, James became interested in a more rapid process for preparing the plate for the engraver - possibly the engineering streak in him his father noticed. He also developed an intense interest in mezzotinting and soon began his career in that art and as an engraver in general. As a mezzotinter, for over fifty years, he was possibly only excelled in his day by Samuel Cousins (1801–1887). Several of Faed's mezzotints were commissioned by the Royal Association for the Promotion of Fine Arts in Scotland.

About 1871, James went to Australia in order to visit his brother William, who had emigrated, and stayed at Stony Park, Brunswick, the home of Theodotus John Sumner. When that house was later destroyed by fire, a record discovered mentioned that many engravings of cottage life, and proofs, by James Faed, were lost in the fire, but that some which survived were hung in the dining room of the rebuilt house.

His engravings of portraits became widely in demand and his first patron was John Watson Gordon who in 1850, became President of the Royal Scottish Academy and Her Majesty's Limner for Scotland. Faed engraved at least one hundred and thirty three plates, one of which was a Royal Commission for the painting of Queen Victoria and Prince Arthur, by Winterhalter, and his last commission was a portrait of the Countess of Seafield which was hung in the Royal Academy in 1877.

The last engraving James Faed undertook, at the age of eighty, was a portrait of the Earl of Home, father of the future Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home. It was exhibited in the Royal Academy in 1899 and James received £159/10/- for the commission.

He died suddenly while eating his lunch at 7 Barnton Terrace, Edinburgh, in his ninety-first year. His wife Mary had died in 1887 at the age of sixty.en.Wikipedia

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Self-Portrait James Faed, Snr. by his son, William Cotton Faed


At the time of his death on 23rd September 1911, James Faed was the last survivor of a famous family of artists. James' elder brother was John Faed R.S.A., and a younger brother was Thomas Faed R,A., H.R.S.A. The brothers grew up in Gatehouse, where James helped his miller father. His first large work was after a group portrait by his brother Thomas of Walter Scott and His Literary Friends, followed by another group of poets and friends of Shakespeare at the Mermaid Tavern after John Faed. From 1848-1898, James Faed engraved over 140 plates for leading Victorian artists such as Sir John Watson Gordon P.R.S.A., John Graham Gilbert, Sir Daniel MacNee P.R.S.A., Norman Macbeth, Sir J. Noel Paton, Franz Winterhalter and Sir George Reid P.R.S.A. As well as Scottish aristocracy, his commissions included sitters from the medical, religious and scientific world as well as landed gentry, many of whom were connected with hunting. The Duke of Buccleuch, his son, Lord Dalkeith, The Earl of Galloway, Sir Andrew Agnew of Lochnaw and Wellwood Herries Maxwell of Munches were all subjects of Faed’s plates. James Faed died in Edinburgh, aged 90. He was married to Mary Cotton who bore him eight children, including the artists James Faed, Junior and William Cotton Faed.


Faed, James, a native of Kirkcudbrightshire. He has spent the greater part of his professional life in Edinburgh, devoting himself to engraving with marked success. Among his plates are many of the works of his brothers John and Thomas Faed, and of the portraits of Sir Francis Grant. He paints also occasional land- and figure-pieces in oil-colors, exhibiting at the Royal Scottish Academy, and elsewhere in Great Britain.

He produced 133 mezzotints from 1849 until 1898, including:
The Duke of Wellington
The Duke of Portland
The Duke of Buccleuch

James Faed: Master Mezzotinter James Faed was the second of a family of remarkable artists to come from Gatehouse-of-Fleet in southwest Scotland. His brothers, John Faed RSA and Thomas Faed RA, had successful careers in the mid-19th century and are well known for their genre and historical works. Their father had been a millwright and engineer and James’ early life was spent assisting him with the machinery. James Faed began as a miniature portrait artist in Edinburgh in the 1840s, but quickly found that he had a natural talent for engraving in mezzotint. His early work was for John Watson Gordon, but he soon came to the notice of another great Scottish portrait artist, Francis Grant, later President of the Royal Academy in London.

Artists of the Nineteenth Century; Biographical Sketches. By Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton, 1879.

Over a 50-year period Faed undertook 145 plates for Grant and other leading artists of the day, the sitters including three Prime Ministers, other Members of Parliament, church leaders, academicians and scientists.