The Galloway-born Thomas Faed was widely admired in London and Edinburgh for the genre subjects that he exhibited, often exploring themes of hardship and distress. Trained at the Trustees’Academy, and encouraged to follow a career as an artist by his elder brother John, Thomas Faed owed much to contemporary and historical Dutch genre and rustic subjects in both interior and outdoor settings, and to the example of David Wilkie. Throughout his career, Faed paid close attention to qualities of texture and has a particular fondness for incidental peripheral details. Nonetheless, the anecdotal character of his art in no degree lessens the evident concern which the artist felt for his unfortunate subjects, the theme of poverty being his central concern. He made a vast impact with his subject The Mitherless Bairn (Melbourne), which showed at the Royal Academy in 1855. Other Scottish subjects were to follow, most notably The Last of the Clan (Glasgow Art gallery and Museum), a painting which refers to the exodus of population from the Highlands as a result of deliberate clearances of inhabitants to make way for intensive sheep-farming and sporting estates. Faed’s sincere concern for the condition of living of the dispossessed attracted the attention of the social philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts, who commissioned works from him.
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