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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Sir Joseph Noël Paton (1821–1901)

Painter of historical, religious, literary and allegorical subjects in a finely detailed Pre-Raphaelite idiom, and a leading exponent of the Victorian genre of fairy painting, achieving huge success with such works as The Fairy Raid (1867). Born in Dunfermline, Scotland, the son of a damask manufacturer and antiquarian, he was one of a distinguished family of artists that included his two siblings, the painter Waller Hugh Paton and the sculptor Amelia Hill, and his nephew, the sculptor Waller Hubert Paton. Despite his success as a painter (he was appointed Her Majesty’s Limner for Scotland in 1865 and knighted two years later), he nurtured a lifelong, but largely unrealised, ambition to be a sculptor, submitting ambitious designs for public schemes such as the National Wallace Monument in 1858 and the Memorial of the War of Independence in 1859, both of which were unsuccessful. He was, however, almost certainly the designer of the allegorical relief panels of the ‘Ruder Arts’, the ‘Fine Arts’ and the ‘Sciences’, carved by William Birnie Rhind over the central entrance bay of the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh (completed 1893). There is evidence that he resented the success of his sister, and actively tried to discourage her from pursuing her career as a sculptor.

Bibliography: N. Bown, ‘Paton, Sir (Joseph) Noël’, ODNB, 2004; A.C. Lennie, ‘Amelia and Joseph Noël Paton: a sibling rivalry’, Journal of the Scottish Society for Art History, vol. 21, 2016–17, pp. 13–20; R. McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Edinburgh (2 vols), Liverpool, 2018, vol. 2, pp. 38, 224–25, 280, 354–56.

Ray McKenzie 2018

Paton, Joseph Noël, Sir

Thomas Annan, Sir Joseph Noel Paton,
photograph, 1866, National Portrait Gallery
(photo: public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)