John Faed was a self-taught artist and received early encouragement from an Edinburgh collector who had settled locally. He painted miniatures until 1840, when he moved to Edinburgh, and he attended classes at the Trustees’ Academy there. Being hard-working and cautious he continued in the ‘cramped minuteness’ of miniature painting against his true inclination. The Evening Hour (Children of Dr Archibald Bennie) (1847; Edinburgh, National Gallery), painted on a piece of ivory 330×241 mm, shows his portrait style at the height of his success as a miniaturist. By the late 1840s he had begun to exhibit oils at the Royal Scottish Academy, of which the Trysting Place (1848; Glasgow, Art Gallery & Museum) was among his earliest. During the 1850s he received two commissions from the Royal Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in Scotland for illustrations to Robert Burns, including Tam O’Shanter (1856). A Wappenschaw (1863; Edinburgh, Offices of the NT Scotland), an ambitious work depicting a feudal shooting contest with some 40 figures, reveals his compositional weaknesses, due perhaps to his miniaturist training. In 1864 John followed his brother Thomas Faed to London. In later life John was free to indulge his early ambition to become a history painter. In order to paint the Warning before Flodden (1875; Wolverhampton, Art Gallery), he first borrowed historical costumes from Mme Tussaud’s waxworks. He settled at Gatehouse in 1880.
John Faed is represented in the following collections: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Wolverhampton Art Gallery, UK; Glasgow Art Gallery & Museum, UK; National Gallery, Edinburgh, amongst others.