This painting has come to symbolise the Highland Clearances which was a time when many Scots were forced to emigrate, driven from their land by poverty, or evicted by greedy estate owners. Although by then the worst of the Clearances were over, the story told by the picture still aroused strong feelings and inspired him to create the most enduring image of this tragic period of Scottish history.
Grief is written on the faces of the young and old and even the horse, as an unseen ship sails away. As a viewer of this painting, we appear to be on the departing ship. There is beauty however, in the skilfully painted young women, surely out of place with their London fashions, and the random objects scattered on the quayside.
Thomas Faed was one of the most successful painters of his time. His work was popular with the Victorian public who queued to see his latest paintings of sentimental Scottish themes. When this painting was exhibited, the Royal Academy had to have barriers erected to control the crowd!
He was born in Gatehouse-of-Fleet in South West Scotland and trained in Edinburgh at the School of Desig, becoming an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy at the young age of 23.
He moved to London in 1852 where he became one of the most successful painters of his time. Although he lived in England, his paintings often dealt with Scottish subjects. His work was popular with the Victorian public who queued to see his latest paintings of sentimental Scottish themes. He was a technical expert in oils and excelled at still-life details, figures and landscapes. By 1893 he had become almost blind and retired from painting. He died in London in St John’s Wood in 1900.
You can see this painting in the Scottish Identity in Art Gallery in the Expression Wing on the first floor of Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum.
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