Noel Paton's link with the Pre-Raphaelite movement came though a lifelong friendship with Millais. Paton, born in Dunfermline, Scotland, met the fourteen year old Millais when they were both students at the Royal Academy Schools. In the 1840s, Paton's works were hard-edged and crowded like those of Maclise, but in the 1850s, under Pre-Raphaelite influence, he developed a new sharpness of observation. Ruskin commended such pictures as the "Bludie Tryst" (1855, Royal Academy 1858), which is now in Glasgow Art Gallery, for "perfect draughtsmanship". Paton is remembered today for his fairy paintings, such as the "Quarrel of Oberon and Titania" (1849, National Gallery of Scotland). These subjects originated from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, a source to which Paton was naturally attracted due to its setting in a world inhabited by fairies.
Paton also produced a small number of modern life paintings produced under Pre-Raphaelite influence. The most famous is "In Memoriam" (1858, Alexander Whitelaw collection 1911, Sotheby's London November 1989; known through the engraving), commemorating British women killed in the Indian Mutiny. However, after 1870 Paton concentrated on religious pictures painted in a Nazarene style.
The artist enjoyed a successful official career. He was a prize winner in the Westminster Hall Competitions for 1845 and 1847. He was elected Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1847 and Member in 1850. Queen Victoria appointed him Her Majesty's Linmer for Scotland and knighted him in 1866 and also commissioned his pictures for the prayer room at Osborne House, Isle of Wight. However his work is still under-rated. The most substantial published study of his art appeared as long ago as 1895, and the only major modern exhibition of his work took place in 1967, organised by the Scottish Arts Council in Edinburgh. – Peter Nahum Ltd.
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Boase, T. S. R. "The Decoration of the New Palaces at Westminster, 1841-63." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute 17 (1954): 319-358.
Dafforne, James. “British Artists: Their Style and Character. No. LXVII. Sir Joseph Noel Paton.” Art-Journal. (1869): 1-3. Hathi Trust Digital Library digitized from a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 6 April 2014.
Morgan, Hilary and Nahum, Peter. Burne-Jones, The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Century. London: Peter Nahum, 1989. Catalogue number 32.
Schindler, Richard. Joseph Noel Paton's Contribution to Fairy Painting
Schindler, Richard. "Joseph Noel Paton's Fairy Paintings: Fantasy Art as Victorian Narrative." Scotia 14 (1990): 13-29.
"Sir Joseph Noel Paton, His Life and Work." Art Journal, 1895, pages 97-128.
Wood, Christopher. The Dictionary of Victorian Painters. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collector's Club, 1978.
Last modified 7 April 2014