As a young boy John Faed displayed exceptional artistic talent as a portraitist. Despite his father’s objections towards a career as an artist, Faed moved to Edinburgh in 1839 to attend the Trustees’ Academy where he studied life drawing and painting. He began to move away from portraiture and painted more subject pictures. Faed chose scenes from Shakespeare and the Bible, but specialised in Scottish subjects such as those popularised by the novels of Sir Walter Scott. He was elected an associate member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1847, and a full member in 1851. In 1857 he spent four months travelling in the Middle East, where he collected numerous props to incorporate into his Eastern and biblical pictures. Apart from this trip and a period in London from 1864-69, Faed remained in Scotland.