James Fairman was an itinerant landscape painter whose work covered the expanse of the United States as it swelled to tremendous proportions. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Fairman emigrated to the United States with his family at the age of six. He studied at the National Academy of Design ten years later and went on to serve as a colonel in the Civil War, an art instructor in New York City (where one of his students was George Herbert McCord), and a lecturer at Olivet College in Michigan; additionally, he was a musician and noted critic.
Over the course of his impressively varied career, Fairman traveled the world, painting landscapes from the lakes of Maine to the valleys of California and beyond: his subjects included the Orsini Palace in Venice, the White Cliffs of Dover, the Mediterranean coast at Jaffa, and the monuments of Jerusalem and Palestine. His extensive wanderings rendered him a multifaceted expert on the American terrain, one who played the role of frontiersman, naturalist, and educator, in addition to that of artist.
Fairman exhibited at the National Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Brooklyn Art Association, and the American Institute; today his paintings are featured in the Hudson River Museum and the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.