Sir Joseph Noel Paton RSA (1821-1901)


Scottish painter, born in Dunfermline to a family of weavers. He studied at the Royal Academy, London, and became a painter of historical, fairy, allegorical and religious subjects, in a style close to that of the Pre-Raphaelites. He was appointed Queen's Limner for Scotland from 1866. He also published two volumes of poems.


Father:  Joseph Neil Paton, an accomplished damask designer

Mother:  Catherine McDiarmid, claimed to be a direct descendant of Robert the Bruce and Malcolm Canmore


1821 – Born December 13th, 1821 in Dunfermline, raised in Wooer’s Alley cottage, within sight of the Abbey and Palace ruins.

1838 – Head designer at a muslin factory in Paisley.

1843 – Enrolled at Royal Academy School, London

1846 – Painted ‘The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania’; note: Nat. Gal. of Scotland lists this as 1850.

1847 – Painted ‘The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania

            Elected associate member of the Royal Scottish Academy

1848 – Drew ‘Faust in the Witch’s Kitchen’ from Part One of Goethe’s Faust

1850 – Elected full member of the Royal Scottish Academy

1858 – Married Margaret Ferrier; moved to 33 George Square, Edinburgh

1861 – Published Poems by A Painter

1863 – Illustrated Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner

1866 – Appointed Queen’s Limner for Scotland

1867 – Knighted

1867 – Published Spindrift, another volume of poetry.

1868 – Commissioned to design a carved stone for the Dunfermline Mercat Cross unicorn.

1875 – Honorary Degree LLD from Edinburgh University

1880 – Illustrated Water Babies, written by Charles Kingsley

1888 – Freeman of the Royal Burgh of Dunfermline

1901 – Died December 26, 1901 in Edinburgh.


He designed a stained glass window for the nave of Dunfermline Abbey.  His three most successful religious paintings are ‘Vigilate et Orate’, ‘The Man of Sorrows’ and ‘The Good Shepherd’.  He and his wife raised eleven children.  Queen Victoria commissioned and purchased several of his paintings.


Joseph Noel’s brother, Waller Hugh Paton (July 27, 1828 – March 8, 1895), was also a painter in oil & watercolor, sculptor, illustrator and engraver.  Together with Joseph Noel, he illustrated Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers and Poems and Songs (by Robert Burns).

Sister Amelia became a sculptress.


Joseph Noel’s eldest son, Diarmid Noel Paton (b. 1859), became professor of Physiology in Glasgow in 1906.

Joseph Noel’s son, Frederick Noel Paton (b. 1861), became director of Commercial Intelligence to the Government of India in 1905.


Paton’s close friends in the artistic world included John Everett Millais, whom he met at the Royal Academy School, and John Ruskin.


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Personal Interest

I lived in Dunfermline for a few months (spring of 1991).  While there, I traveled to nearby Edinburgh often.  I went to the National Gallery of Scotland, and there first saw Paton’s two works:  The Quarrel of Oberon and Titiana and The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titiana.  I could look at these two works for a long time.  Then I found out that Paton was from Dunfermline.  Two works of his hang in the Dunfermline City Chambers, but I’ve never been inside to see them (‘The Spirit of Religion’ (1845) and ‘Queen Margaret and Malcolm Canmore’ (1886)).


Back in the US, I saw a print of The Reconciliation hanging in an antique shop.  It was something like $100.  I passed.  I have regretted that omission ever since, for I have not seen a Paton print in any shop or catalog.


Paton also illustrated an edition of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a favorite of mine.  I found this out in 1998 when visiting William Wordsworth’s house at Grasmere (in England’s Lake District), which happened to be showing a traveling exhibit celebrating the Rime.  The classic Rime illustrator was Gustave Dore.  I have a reprint of the Dore-illustrated version at home.


In a great crossover, the heavy metal band Iron Maiden wrote a song about the Rime (on Powerslave, 1984).  I’m not a metal fan, but I do like this song.  It’s long (over 13 minutes) and gives a great interpretation of the story (lyrics).  Mp3’s are out there…  Here’s a clip from the Iron Maiden site.


Paton’s two paintings, The Quarrel and the Reconciliation, of course derive from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I have a leather bound, boxed copy of the play illustrated by Charles Vess.  It is one of my favorite books.  Here is a link to someone who really likes the character Puck.  His links lead many places.


3/2005:  I added the entry for Joseph Noel Paton to Wikipedia.  12/2005:  Thanks to all those who have updated it so nicely.


2006:  I purchased Water Babies, by Charles Kingsley, illustrated by Paton (frontispiece and page 150):

            The Works of Charles Kingsley, Volume IX, The Water Babies.  Published in London by Macmillan and Co., 1880.

(6/24/2007 note:  this book is included with Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin as being one of the direct ancestors of Fantasy Literature – reference professor Michael Drout of Wheaton College.)


October, 2007:  Here's a neat thread of connection through a number of topics –   

Dunfermline has Malcolm Canmore’s tower – he’s the guy who killed Macbeth in 1057.  I like Shakespeare's Macbeth.  I just read it.  Macbeth was written for James I of England – son of Mary Stuart (James I, by the way, is descended directly from Banquo, also of Macbeth fame).  Mary & Elizabeth are the subject of a book I’m reading right now, and the subject of these two Elizabeth movies.  The movies are directed by Shekhar Kapur.  He, along with Deepak Chopra, are behind Virgin Comics, which published the graphic novel Ramayan 3392 AD, a futuristic take on the Ramayana of India.  I just recently purchased and read this book as well.  So that’s how you can get from Dunfermline to Indian Mythology in just a few steps!


June, 2011

I paid a visit to some Joseph Noel Paton sites this year, as part of my two week holiday in Scotland with my daughter Claire.  We visited the National Gallery in Edinburgh, and the Dunfermline City Chambers in Dunfermline, Fife.  I also discovered that Paton played a hand in refurbishing the Dunfermline Mercat Cross, High Street, Dunfermline.  I’ve updated my page here with the information and references, as well as links to the pictures I took.



Locations of Paton’s works


Dunfermline (Scotland) City Chambers:  The Spirit of Religion (1845)

Dunfermline (Scotland) City Chambers:  Queen Margaret and Malcolm Canmore (1886) – confirmed June, 2011

Dunfermline (Scotland) City Chambers:  Seizure of Roger Mortimer by Edward III in Nottingham Castle () – confirmed June, 2011

Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum:  The Bluidie Tryst (1855)

Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum:  The Fairy Raid:  Carrying off a Changeling – Midsummer Eve (1867); here.

Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum:  Hesperus (1857)

National Gallery of Scotland:  Faust in the Witch’s Kitchen (1848)

National Gallery of Scotland:  The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania (1850), NG293 – confirmed June, 2011

National Gallery of Scotland:  The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania (1847), NG294 – confirmed June, 2011

National Gallery of Scotland:  Dawn: Luther at Erfurt (1861), NG1230 – confirmed June, 2011

University of Dundee:  The Dowie Dens O’ Yarrow (1860); here.


Waller Hugh Paton (1828-1895)

National Gallery of Scotland:  Donnattar Castle (1867) – confirmed June, 2011


Alphabetical List of Works


The Angel and Sir Galahad

The Bluidie Tryst (1855), Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum;

Bruce and the Spider (1850)

Calvary (1849)

Christ Bearing the Cross

Christian at the Foot of the Cross (1873); Aberdeen Art Gallery, info;

Dawn: Luther at Erfurt (1861); National Galleries of Scotland;

The Dowie Dens O’ Yarrow (1860), University of Dundee, info and info;

The Fairy Raid:  Carrying off a Changeling – Midsummer Eve (1867), Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum, info;

            located at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

Faust in the Witch’s Kitchen (1848)

The Good Shepherd

Hesperus The Evening Star Sacred to Lovers (1857), Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum

Home (1855), Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; press release;  The Royal Collection, info;

            subtitled “The return from the Crimea”;

            The Royal Collection reports this dated 1859. I’m not sure where it actually resides (as of 2010).

How an Angel Rowed Sir Galahad Across the Dern Mere (1888)

In Die Malo (1882)

In Memoriam (1863-4); The Royal Collection, info;

The Indian Boy’s Mother (1849); Christie’s sale, 2009;

The Man of Sorrows (1875), Tyne & Wear Museums, Newcastle upon Tyne, info; probably at the Laing AG.

The Man with the Muck-Rake (1875-9), Ferens Art Gallery, Hull City Museums; image;

Mors Janua Vitae (1866); Christie’s sale, 2003;

Oberon and the Mermaid (1888)

Oskold and the Ell-Maids (1874)

Paolo and Francesca Da Rimini (1866)

Puck and the Fairy

The Pursuit of Pleasure (1855)

The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania (1846 or 1850) , National Galleries of Scotland; link;

Queen Margaret and Malcolm Canmore (1886), Dunfermline City Chambers;

The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania (1847), National Galleries of Scotland; link;

Ruth Gleaning

Seizure of Roger Mortimer by Edward III in Nottingham Castle (), Dunfermline City Chambers;

Sermon on the Mount (1849)

Sir Galahad (1888)

Sir Galahad and His Angel

Song of Silenus (1858)

The Spirit of Religion (1845), Dunfermline City Chambers;

Titania (1850)

Under the Sea I

Under the Sea II


The Valley of the Shadow of Death (1866)

Vigilate et Orate





Compositions from Shakespeare’s Tempest, 1845 (Paton, illustrator)

Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1863, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Paton, illustrator)

Water Babies (Paton, illustrator)



Paton Images


The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania (1846)                    The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania (1847)

Oil on canvas 99 cm x 152 cm                                      Oil on canvas 76.2 cm x 122.6 cm


            TheQuarrelOfOberonandTitania_sm                                                           TheReconciliationOfOberonandTitania_sm


Both hang at the National Gallery of Scotland, The Mound, Edinburgh

5/6/2002:  cannot link directly to the images at tripod.  I’ll have to create .htm pages which display them.


Others – to come…


my image of the Dunfermline City Chambers building, housing works by Paton;

my image of Paton’s Queen Margaret and King Malcolm Canmore;

my image of Paton’s Seizure of Roger Mortimer by Edward III in Nottingham Castle;

my images of Dunfermline’s Mercat Cross: mercat1, mercat2, mercat3, mercat4, mercat5;



Paton on the Web


Various Paton pages:  The Victorian Web;  Art Renewal Center; ArtMagick;     ; 

Pricing information:  artnet;  Arcadja;   ;


1/2001:  A great site with other fairy painting images: 

9/2004:  Treatment of Shakespeare using Paton as illustration:

9/2004:  Background on Paton & a treatment of his fairy paintings:

9/2004:  Victorian Fairy Paintings:  (12/2010 – link is dead, but site exists)

9/2004:  Many galleries of fairy paintings:

11/2004:  Collection of web resources:

            And more:

2/2005:  Richard Schindler knows a bit about Paton: (12/2010 - dead link)

3/2007:  on Classic Encylopedia

            And the wikipedia entry:


12/2010: updated links…

6/2011: updated for 2011 based on trip to Scotland, including Dunfermline and Edinburgh.


owned sources:

Water Babies

Your Guide to Dunfermline, February 2009; reprinted May 2010.


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