Art Wednesday: Sir Joseph Noel Paton, Scottish Painter and Sculptor

'Home': The Return from the Crimea Sir Joseph Noel Paton,1859 Oil on panel, 71 x 58 cm Royal Collection, Windsor In answer to John Ruskin's rallying call for artists to eschew traditional history painting, Paton undertook two paintings of contemporary subjects; 'Home' in the context of the Crimean War (1854-56) and In Memoriam (private collection) relating to the Indian Mutiny (1858). 'Home' depicts the return from the Crimea of a Corporal in the Scots Fusilier Guards. He has been wounded in the head and has lost his left arm. The Crimean medal, awarded by Queen Victoria in 1855 to all those who fought in that war, is worn on his uniform and below the chair is a trophy - a Russian helmet lying beneath the soldier's stick. The mother weeps over his shoulder, while his wife kneels and embraces him. A small child sleeps in the cot. The open Bible on the table indicates the source of the family's strength in the soldier's absence. The subject is treated as domestic genre although the painting can also be interpreted as an implied criticism of the war. The picture shows a reduced replica which was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1856. She gave it to the Prince Consort at Christmas, 1859.

‘Home’: The Return from the Crimea
Sir Joseph Noel Paton,1859
Oil on panel, 71 x 58 cm
Royal Collection, Windsor
In answer to John Ruskin’s rallying call for artists to eschew traditional history painting, Paton undertook two paintings of contemporary subjects; ‘Home’ in the context of the Crimean War (1854-56) and In Memoriam (private collection) relating to the Indian Mutiny (1858). ‘Home’ depicts the return from the Crimea of a Corporal in the Scots Fusilier Guards. He has been wounded in the head and has lost his left arm. The Crimean medal, awarded by Queen Victoria in 1855 to all those who fought in that war, is worn on his uniform and below the chair is a trophy – a Russian helmet lying beneath the soldier’s stick. The mother weeps over his shoulder, while his wife kneels and embraces him. A small child sleeps in the cot. The open Bible on the table indicates the source of the family’s strength in the soldier’s absence. The subject is treated as domestic genre although the painting can also be interpreted as an implied criticism of the war.
The picture shows a reduced replica which was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1856. She gave it to the Prince Consort at Christmas, 1859.

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

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