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'When the steamer had slowly backed out, and John MacAlpine had thrown off the hawser [rope], we began to feel that our once powerful clan was now represented by a feeble old man and his granddaughter, who, together with some outlying kith-and-kin, myself among the number, owned not a single blade of grass in the glen that was once all our own.' Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1865, this painting was accompanied in the catalogue by this paragraph which was probably written by the artist himself. Such emigrant scenes were common occurrences in mid 19th-century Scotland when, partly as a result of the Highland Clearances, the land could no longer support the people. Emigration, often forced, to places such as America and Canada, was the only hope of survival.
A masterpiece of genre painting on a relatively large scale, Faed combines an eye for detail with a fluent painterly manner. The high quality of the still life painting of objects strewn on the quayside – a ginger jar, a pheasant, pots and packing cases – and the costumes worn by the figures, are typical of Faed at his best and reveal a Pre-Raphaelite influence. These elements are set amidst a fine landscape with a breezy sky and distant choppy sea. All in all, Faed brings an epic quality to a subject which is charged with tragic emotion and powerful immediacy.
The Last of the Clan
oil on canvas
H 144.8 x W 182.9 cm
purchased with the assistance of the Heritage Fund for Scotland, the National Art Collections Fund, The Pilgrim Trust Glasgow Print Studio and public subscription, 1980