Sir Joseph Noel Paton, 1821 – 1901, began his career as a designer of textiles in Paisley, but studied at the Royal Academy Schools in 1842-43 where he met S. C. Hall, the editor of the influential Art Journal, and the artists Richard Dadd and John Everett Millais. Paton’s early reputation rested on his paintings of literary themes (for example, The Quarrel and The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania, both National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh) in which a predilection for fairies is evident, as well as a strong sense of design.
His pronounced interest in spiritual or allegorical, as opposed to religious or historical, subject matter was partly derived from his father, who, apart from being a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, was fascinated by the work of William Blake and eventually adopted the religio-scientific views of Emanuel Swedenborg. Paton in fact painted an important composite triptych for the Prayer Room at Osbome House, Isle of Wight, which was installed in 1885 but given to the Parish and Churchwardens of Anmer church, near Sandringham in Norfolk, by Queen Mary in 1921.
He was made an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1847 and a fellow in 1850. In 1858, he married Margaret Ferrier and had two sons the eldest being Diarmid Noel Paton (1859-1928) who became a regius professor of physiology in Glasgow in 1906. His youngest Frederick Noel Paton (b. 1861) was to become director of commercial intelligence to the government of India (1905).
The artist was appointed Queen Victoria’s official ‘Limner for Scotland’ in 1864 and was knighted on 26 March 1867. The Queen particularly admired the artist’s drawing, which was the basis of a meticulous style that was otherwise characterized by a thin application of paint and somewhat bleached coloring.
On the Web: Sir Joseph Noel Paton