Joseph Anderson Faris was born in St. Clairsville, Ohio, in 1833. He began his career as a cabinetmaker in his father's shop, but at the age of eighteen became a marble cutter and moved to Wheeling, West Virginia. He married Mary E. Pratt in 1855. The couple had ten children, six of whom survived to adulthood.
From 1861 to 1864 Faris served in the army, rising to the rank of captain. There is no documentary evidence that Faris received any formal artistic training, but he managed his brother's photography gallery in New York for a short time and may have received some instruction then. While he is known mainly as a portrait painter, Faris painted landscapes and still lifes as well as historical scenes.
The artist served briefly as the superintendent of the Dutchman's Run Oil Company in New York City but later returned to Wheeling, where he was elected to the city council in 1887. In 1890 Faris was appointed by President Benjamin Harrison to serve as surveyor of customs for the port of Wheeling. Faris remained in Wheeling until his death in November of 1909. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
Brown, Genevieve. "A History of the Sixth Regiment West Virginia Infantry Volunteers." West Virginia History 9 (July 1948): 352.
Stein, Janis H. "Wheeling Artists of the Past." Upper Ohio Valley Historical Review 7 (Spring-Summer 1978): 14.
Chotner, Deborah, with contributions by Julie Aronson, Sarah D. Cash, and Laurie Weitzenkorn. American Naive Paintings. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 107.