John Faed, R.S.A.
(31 August 1819 - 22 October 1902)
Born Barlay Mill, near Gatehouse-on-Fleet, in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, was eldest son of James Faed, a farmer, miller, and engineer there, whose cousin. Sir George Faed, K.C.B., fought at Waterloo. The family was notable for artistic talent. Thomas Faed, R.A. [q. v. Suppl. I], was the third son. Another brother was James Faed the engraver. John Faed's native taste for art was encouraged by his father. At the outset self-taught, he developed talent as a miniaturist. Leaving school in 1830, when only eleven, he visited next year many towns and villages of Galloway, painting miniatures for the gentry and middle-classes of the district, who regarded him as a prodigy. In 1839 he attended the art-classes at Edinburgh, and soon established a high reputation there as a miniaturist. For over forty years he practised in this department of art with eminent success. When he had obtained a secure position in Edinburgh, he brought thither his two brothers, Thomas and James, and supported them while they were studying art. From 1841 until near the close of his life Faed exhibited annually at the Royal Scottish Academy. He was chosen an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1847, and an academician in 1851.
Gradually abandoning miniature-painting for figure-subjects, Faed found his themes in the Bible and the works of Shakespeare, Burns, Scott, and the ballad literature of Scotland. Among his characteristic pictures are the following: -- 'Boyhood' (1850); 'The Cruel Sister' (1851), and 'Burd Helen' (now in Kelvingrove Gallery, Glasgow); 'The Cottar's Saturday Night' (1854); 'Reason and Faith,' and 'The Philosopher' (1855); 'The Household Gods in Danger' (1856); 'Job and his Friends' (1858); and 'Boaz'and Ruth' (1860). Other pictures were 'The Raid of Ruthven' (1856), 'Rosalind and Orlando,' 'Olivia and Viola,' and 'Shakespeare and his Friends at the Mermaid Tavern,' a companion picture to Thomas Faed's 'Scott and his Friends at Abbotsford.' Both of these last-named pictures were engraved by James Faed and were widely circulated.
'Annie's Tryst,' suggested by a Scottish ballad, his diploma picture for the Royal Scottish Academy, dated 1863, is in the National Gallery of Scotland, together with his notable picture 'The Poet's Dream' (1883), presented by him to the Royal Scottish Academy a few weeks before his death. 'The Wappinschaw,' an elaborate work, with numerous figures, was shown at the Royal Scottish Academy, and was purchased for 1200l. by James Baird of Cambusdoon.
From 1862 to 1880 Faed was in London, exhibiting regularly at the Royal Academy. Among the pictures shown there were 'Catherine Seyton,' 'Old Age,' 'The Stirrup Cup,' 'John Anderson my Jo,' 'Auld Mare Maggie,' 'After the Victory,' 'The Morning before Flodden,' 'Blenheim,' 'In Memoriam,' 'Goldsmith in his Study,' and 'The Old Basket-maker.' Retiring to Ardmore, Gatehouse, near his birthplace, in 1880, Faed painted several landscapes in the neighbourhood, one being presented by him to Gatehouse town hall. He died at Ardmore on 22 Oct. 1902. Faed married in 1849 Jane, daughter of J. Macdonald, minister of Gigha in the Hebrides; she died in 1898. A painted portrait of Faed is in the possession of Mr. Donald Hall, Woodlyn, Gatehouse-on-Fleet.
Faed's practice as a miniaturist led to more elaboration of details in his pictures than contemporary taste approved. His art is typical of the best Scottish genre style of the late Victorian period.[W. D. McKay's Scottish School of Painting; Bryan's Dict. of Painters and Engravers, revised ed.; Cat. of Nat. Gal. of Scotland, 42nd ed.; Scotsman, 23 Oct. 1902; Dundee Advertiser, 23 Oct. 1902.]
Scottish painter, born three months after Queen Victoria, John was the eldest son of the six children of James Faed, tenant of Barlay Mill, Galloway, and Mary née McGeoch. Two other sons, Thomas, and James, also became artists.
Until the age of eleven John attended Girthon Parish School, and the Castle Douglas Weekly Visitor for 19 August 1831, recorded that at the examination of Girthon school "the company present were shown a beautiful and correct book of maps, executed by John Faed, as a specimen of his many and varied drawings, which often ere now have elicited the admiration of all who have seen them".
Faed primarily painted religious, literary, and historical scenes. He exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy almost continually. When he was President of the Kirkcudbrightshire Fine Art Association in 1899, his portrait of Sir Isaac Newton (painted when Faed was 36) was shown in the Dalbeattie Loan and Industrial Exhibition which took place in July and August that year.
John Faed also had a following in the USA; his portrait of George Washington taking the Salute at Trenten was so popular that it was selected to illustrate an article on Washington in the Magazine of American History in 1880. His highly successful painting Shakespeare and his Friends at the Mermaid Tavern was sold to an American in 1851.
His paintings, popular in Victorian Britain, can today be found in private and public collections, including the National Gallery of Scotland.
He was an active member of the community where he finally made his home, Gatehouse of Fleet. He helped to conceive and develop a number of community projects, such as the clock tower, and the town hall which was opened in August 1885 by Thomas Faed, by then a celebrated Academician.
In the summer of 1902 John Faed became seriously ill, and died on 22 October at the age of eighty-three. He was buried beside his wife, Jane, in the new Girthon parish churchyard.
The known titles of his works amount to 278 items. Of this total 241 were hung in the Royal Scottish Academy, twenty of these were exhibited in the Royal Academy, in addition to the nineteen exhibited in the Royal Academy only. The list is thought to be incomplete.