This excellent ship portraitist began his life’s work in Liverpool. It is believed that he later sailed to America and was employed in the capacity of a ship and figure portraitist in Boston (one of his works was published by Currier & Ives as a lithograph).
As a majority of McFarlane's works are unsigned, he has often been confused with Liverpool artists such as Samuel Walters and Joseph Heard. His paintings are noted for their skilled draftsmanship and in the ratio of ships to the overall picture area.
A number of artistic trademarks are associated with McFarlane: small seabirds hovering over the water, luffed sails with very crisply defined borders and the fine lettering on the vessels' name boards which ranks amongst the most well delineated of all marine art.
Mcfarlane's work is rarely seen on the public market. His talent has inspired historian A.S Davidson to define him as “a true artisan of marine art”. His death at home in 1865 was announced with the notice of the passing of a master marine painter.