The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Joseph Noel Paton, 1821-1901

Nationality: Scottish
Date of Birth: 1821.12.13
Place of Birth: Weavers Abbey, near Dunfermline
Date of Death: 1901.12.25
Place of Death: Edinburgh


Joseph Noel Paton, a religious, historical, mythical and allegorical painter, sculptor, illustrator, poet and collector, was the son of an antiquarian and collector. His younger brother, Waller Hugh Paton, was a landscape painter. He married Margaret Fenner. The portrait painter Ranald Noel Paton (exh. 1890-5) was probably their son.


Paton began his career as head designer in a sewn-muslin factory in Paisley. In 1842 he went to London where he studied at the Royal Academy Schools, met John Everett Millais, and was awarded prizes for his contributions to the Westminster Hall competitions in 1845 and 1847.

Paton was an extremely well educated and cultured man. He collected armour and weaponry, items which appear in many of his paintings, including Fairy Raid (1867; Glasgow Art Galleries and Museums). He not only painted fairy subjects, but also scenes of contemporary life. All are notable for their attention to detail, comparable to that of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Later he turned to religious subjects which were stylistically similar to the works of the Nazarenes. He also worked as an illustrator, for example designing pictures for Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, produced sculptures and medals, and published books of poetry.

Paton exhibited in London at the Royal Academy from 1856 to 1883, as well as at the Grosvenor Gallery, Royal Scottish Academy, Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts and Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1847, becoming a full member in 1850. He was made Her Majesty's Limner for Scotland in 1866 and a knight in 1876.

In 1883 Paton was invited to attend the private view of JW's exhibition Mr Whistler's Etchings in the Fine Art Society. Unfortunately he was unable to attend (#04526).


Noel-Paton, M., Tales of a Grand-Daughter, Elgin, 1970; Wood, Christopher, The Dictionary of Victorian Artists, Woodbridge, 1871; Johnson, J., and A. Gruetzner, The Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1880; Noel-Paton, M. H., and J. P. Campbell, Noel Paton, 1821-1901, Edinburgh, 1990; Auld, Alasdair A., 'Noel Paton', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 14 March 2003).