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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.
- McKerrow, Mary, The Faeds, Cannongate Publishing Ltd., Edinburgh, 1982, ISBN 0-903937-31-X
- Steel, David I. A, John Faed RSA: The Gatehouse Years, ISBN 0-9533907-2-1 traces his life and the life of his family.
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